Juggernaut by Adam Baker
Published by Hodder & Stoughton, Feb 2012
Review by Mark Yon
Here’s one of those techno-thrillers, so beloved of authors like Tom Clancy and Robert Ludlum, but with a genre twist.
Set in 2005, at a time of the Iraq War, with Saddam Hussein captured but the Middle East in turmoil, the outline of the plot is quite simple. A group of mercenary soldiers, led by Lucy Whyte, hear of a rumour that millions of pounds worth of gold have been left abandoned at an old temple in the middle of the Western Desert.
Realising that they’re not getting any younger and their time to make ‘the big deal’ is running out, the mercenaries plan to make their fortune and hire helicopters, go in and fetch the gold out in a couple of hours. They arrange the escape of Jabril Jamadi, a Republican Guard and the sole survivor of the original abandoned convoy, who can show them the way to the temple. There are all sorts of rumours for the demise of the initial Guard group, but all seems quiet and deserted upon their arrival.
Unbeknown to the soldiers, the crash-landing of a Russian space satellite years ago, Spektr, has led to the dispersal of an active bio-weapon, and it is this that causes the creation of the zombies. Our ‘heroes’ arrival cause the reawakening of the lost legion and much of the book is spent dealing with these infected soldiers and trying to escape, whilst also avoiding the CIA who have been searching for Spektr for years.
This is a no-nonsense, straight-forward thriller tale, admittedly with added zombies. The action scenes are thrillingly done, with enough bone-crunching, biting and beheading to satisfy most gore-fans. Adam manages to make this un-repetitive, which is impressive considering the limited number of living cast and the number of zombie encounters they have to endure.
Its style is very straight-forward, though clearly knowledgeable, and its tale told in a very matter-of fact manner. Sentences are short, yet the action fast. As a result, the characters do not spend too much time contemplating their navel, and consequently can read as typical stereotypes: the hard-nut mercenary, world-weary and emotionally detached, yet doing their difficult job as professionally as they can, the faceless evil corporation determined to keep things secret, the ancient torturer determined to atone for previous sins. This allows the focus to be on the action sequences, which it does in spades.
In the end it’s basically Three Kings meets The Walking Dead, with enough intelligence and panache to make what could’ve been predictable a great page turner. For a second novel, it’s quite impressive.
Mark Yon, February 2012.