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Friday, May 9, 2014

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Book Review: The Last Scenario

Marcos Gabriel's thriller novel The Last Scenario is impressive. I normally don't read conspiracy thrillers, so I was a bit apprehensive to pick it up and give it a shot. I often find the books (and films) cliche and predictable, with an easily sighted formula that leaves no surprises for the readers.

But Gabriel's ingenuity brings a freshness to the genre. The basic formula is there, but he has added enough twists and changes to keep you engaged and on the edge of your seat throughout his wild ride. 

And this wild ride all starts with legally brainstorming a terrorist attack.
For years, the government has enlisted the help of regular civilians to brainstorm terrorist scenarios to find the weaknesses and vulnerabilities of our country so they can be patched before an actual terrorist group can exploit them. And that's just what they've come to ask Samantha Waters to do. Samantha is an average American single mom, who has no claim to fame, no expertise. But that, the suit-wearing, sun glass sporting agent in her driveway says, is why they need her. She agrees to join the scenario team, goes to the meetings, engineers a deadly scenario, gets paid, and goes back to her regular life. That is until ten months later when she gets a phone call from John Ryder.

John Ryder, a former Navy SEAL and member of the scenario team, tells her everyone else on their team has been killed, and if Samantha doesn't go with him, she will be next. Bullets fly and we are immediately plunged into non-stop action as Ryder must save Samantha and himself, all the while trying to figure out who's after them and why. With the help of Ryder's old gang, they must somehow survive and stop the very scenario they concocted. 

It's a thrill ride. And it's a thrill ride that doesn't give you all of the information up front. The way the narrative is structured, you don't know what happened between the agent approaching Samantha and when the bullets start to fly almost ten months later. Gabriel feeds you the information you need while withholding the good stuff right up until you need to know it. In an interesting way, the flashbacks to the scenario team meetings really help the novel move forward. They build anticipation and dread as all the pieces begin sliding into place and the conspiracy unfolds before your eyes.

But what really moves the story are the characters. Action heroes can be shallow and one sided, but John Ryder is not. He is complicated, dangerous, sensitive, mysterious, and he can kick some serious ass. And Samantha, an ordinary person, a high school biology teacher, finds her inner strength and is able to shine. Ryder's old group of comrades he enlists are colorful characters as well. And as in any good military thriller, they all have excellent nicknames. 

From a story standpoint, the book is solid, from a writing standpoint, there are a few issues that I had. The writing is very cut and dry. It seemed like there was no time for flowery writing or lots of descriptive details. For that reason, I found it a bit difficult to be fully immersed in their world. But some of that is a side effect of the genre, which is why I don't normally pick it up.

Also, the chapters are very short. Some are only a page. It's a stylistic choice and there's nothing technically wrong with it, but I find that a chapter break brings me out of the book, so chapter breaks occurring often bring me out more than I'd like. This particular critique is based only on personal preference.

With these two writing and formatting choices, the book does read more like a screenplay than a novel. Which may be a good thing if Gabriel hopes to sell the rights. A few tweaks and it's already written in script form. However, for readers who like a little more detail and a more enveloping world, it could be a hindrance.

However, besides those few criticisms, I thoroughly enjoyed the book. The story kept me guessing, the characters stayed interesting, and the action was intense and ass-whooping. If you like this genre, you'll really like this book.

Title: The Last Scenario

Author: Marcos Gabriel

Genre: Conspiracy/Military Thriller

Recommendation: Yes

Best Reader Audience: Adult Male Readers

Final Rating: Four out of Five mugs of hot chocolate 
Want to kick some ass and stop a terrorist attack? Use the link below and your purchase will support the Lone Book Club.

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