Friday, June 10, 2011

Book Review: Phoenix Force #2 Guerilla Games

This time around, Phoenix Force is sent back into South America again, this time to rescue more kidnapped Americans - but with a twist.  Apparently these Americans had been held hostage ninety-four days before their company had ransomed them...and then captured by another group of Paraguayan terrorists.  Talk about bum luck, eh?  I was never clear while reading the book if the kidnappers and the other set of terrorists were related; this premise, like in Argentine Deadline, is a little wobbly.  Kidnapped along with the American businessmen are the pilot and co-pilot of the plane flying them out, which was forced down by a military aircraft (never explained).

But wait - there's more.  One of the hostages is actually an American intelligence operative whose been working hidden in the corporation for a while now, monitoring its international activities.  Why more of an effort wasn't made to get this operative (who is Phoenix Force's primary mission goal) during the previous ninety-four days of captivity, we aren't exactly sure.  Regardless, in goes Phoenix Force, back to South America.

The good news with Guerilla Games is that the group, by and large, spends the whole book working in teams of some fashion, so there's plenty of inter-character interaction and development.  Manning and McCarter work together along with a French ex-pat arms dealer named Sweetie Pie Sazerac, probably the coolest secondary character name in a Gold Eagle title I've ever come across.  Meanwhile Keio, Katz, and Rafael work together to acquire transportation out of the jungle once the hostages are located.  The banter in this book is much, much smoother, and you really begin to see how the characters relate to one another; Manning thinks McCarter is a bit of a rabid dog, while Keio and Rafael work very hard to not embarass themselves in front of Katz, who the whole team holds in an almost worshipful regard.

The biggest problem with this book is that there is almost nothing action-oriented until the last few pages.  So much time is taken getting through the jungle, finding the hostages, arranging transportation, and interacting with secondary characters that the book as a whole becomes very anti-climactic.  There is a very brief firefight at the end but beyond that, Phoenix Force doesn't fire a single shot.  I can give the writer and Gold Eagle the benefit of the doubt and presume this was done intentionally, to show that Phoenix Force can solve problems without gunfire, but given the rather anemic action quota of the first book, having your second book come off as even more tame seems a weak strategy in my opinion.

Overall I consider this a better-written book than Argentine Deadline, but it is still a weak offering, especially compared to Able Team #2, The Hostaged Island.  Fortunately for Phoenix Force fans, book #3, Atlantic Scramble, makes up for the deficiencies of the first to books - in a BIG way.

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