Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Book Review: Task Force Desperate by Peter Nealen

Former Recon Marine Peter Nealen has written an excellent debut novel, another in a great new class of 21st century paramilitary men's adventure novels that we've begun to see over the last few years. With over a decade since the Global War on Terror started, there is now a whole new class of veteran/author emerging at a time when the ebook and indie book publishing world is making it easy for someone with a deft pen and some great creative talent to make a name for themselves in the world of action-adventure fiction.

Task Force Desperate focuses on a small, hearty band of mercenaries called in to perform a reconnaissance after a US base in Africa is overrun, with two hundred hostages taken. Probably the most interesting aspect of the novel is the dystopian, near-future world Nealen has created. Although no exact year is given, the reader is given the impression it is only a handful of years into the future, but the world has taken a nasty turn for the worse. The US economy has collapsed, and with it a lot of the global economy, coupled with uprisings and destabilization all around the world. This subtle shift in timeline, coupled with the encyclopedia of African and Middle Eastern factions that are mentioned or make an appearance in the book, means that if you're not on top of your global current events and poli-sci, your eyes might glaze over a little bit in certain parts of the book. I don't ding Nealen any points because of this - it means the reader simply needs to pay attention. The book is written to a certain audience, particularly those people who pay attention to world events, military technology and tactics, and enjoy reading about a crew of crack operators kicking down doors and double-tapping bad guys in the X-ring.

Thankfully for Nealen, this sort of fiction has a pre-fabricated audience: former runners and gunners like himself, guys who've played in the sandbox, know the dope, and are also smart, savvy, articulate professionals who'll talk geopolitical trends one minute, the advantages of the .338 Lapua Mag the next, and maybe even settle in for a few beers and some Call of Duty on a lazy Saturday afternoon. These guys might like to call themselves "knuckle-draggers", but to be fair, many of them are or will become college-educated, and possess a lot of skill in assimilating data, dynamic problem-solving, and other cognitive skills. In short, they're smart people, and they can appreciate a smart, complex story like Desperate.

I should perform my due diligence and point out that the action sequences are top notch, flow quickly, and really keep you flipping pages. Nealen isn't above killing characters off, and things get pretty messy before they...well let's face it - there's a reason the book's titled "Task Force Desperate"...

If you like sophisticated, well-written action, give this a read - you won't be disappointed.


Civil War Horror (Sean McLachlan) said...

It's nice to see this genre taking off again. Indie publishing is breathing new life into a lot of genres that publishing decided weren't profitable enough. If a book could only sell 2,000 copies, a publisher wouldn't touch it, but an indie author can make a nice chunk of change. Publishing has changed in the last few years, and authors and readers are the winners.

Jack Badelaire said...

Exactly. There are a few fiction titles out there, and a lot of "no shit, there I was" non-fiction, but for every book that makes it through traditional channels and into bookstores, you're just whetting the appetites of readers who're going to want more.

Guys like Nealen, Jack Murphy, and so forth are going to be the "sharp end of the spear" in this new generation of Men's Adventure fiction.