Monday, 10 February 2014

Runner (early review)

by Patrick Lee
Minotaur Books (18 février 2014)
337 pages - 28.99 $

The blurb of this book, offered on NetGalley, immediately hooked me up. I liked the cover simple and effective (I'm the kind of people who thinks that covers often reflects the book). It also was a change from my reading: no murder to investigate but a chase, a desperate flight... and a mystery to break anyway. Thanks Minotaur Books for this book!

The blurb

Sam Dryden, retired special forces, lives a quiet life in a small town on the coast of Southern California. While out on a run in the middle of the night, a young girl runs into him on the seaside boardwalk. Barefoot and terrified, she’s running from a group of heavily armed men with one clear goal—to kill the fleeing child. After Dryden helps her evade her pursuers, he learns that the eleven year old, for as long as she can remember, has been kept in a secret prison by forces within the government. But she doesn’t know much beyond her own name, Rachel. She only remembers the past two months of her life—and that she has a skill that makes her very dangerous to these men and the hidden men in charge.

Dryden, who lost his wife and young daughter in an accident five years ago, agrees to help her try to unravel her own past and make sense of it, to protect her from the people who are moving heaven and earth to find them both. Although Dryden is only one man, he’s a man with the extraordinary skills and experience—as a Ranger, a Delta, and five years doing off-the-book black ops with an elite team. But, as he slowly begins to discover, the highly trained paramilitary forces on their heels is the only part of the danger they must face. Will Rachel’s own unremembered past be the most deadly of them all?

What I think of it

I must consider myself particularly fortunate early this year because I keep coming across very good books. Runner is one of them. I loved this story that has no downtime. Sam Dryden is a character we want to know in real life, not just for his fighting qualities but for his intelligence, his strength, because he's a trustworthy good guy. He's not infallible, which makes him very realistic and avoids the hero-who-never-lost-even-though-it-is-not-probable kind of character. As Sam, I also wanted to protect Rachel and help her to regain her memories. One feels that she has suffered, that she's afraid and that meeting with Sam brings her a lot, as meeting her allows Sam to regain a taste for life. So two very realistic and endearing characters we want to keep reading about, which is good since this book is the first in a series based on Sam Dryden. I can't wait to read more of his adventures !

The story will delight fans of conspiracy, SF and other techno-biological warfare. Note, however, that the SF side here is very well done, making it very plausible! We have all heard of military or government laboratories history, hidden scientific researches to find new weapons, to create better soldiers, etc. It's in the same vein and then I say no more, not to spoil the story! But know, dear reader who doesn't like this kind of story, the SF side is only a part of the book and serves as a basis to hunt down Sam and Rachel and if we know early a part of why an armed group is hunting Rachel... we learn much later the rest of her story. It follows a race against those determined to kill them and a time trial because they only have the time of their flight to hope to discover Rachel's secret. The narrative tension rises progressively along what they discover about Rachel and the arrival of new players that we don't know the intentions.

It's difficult to talk about Runner without revealing the story but one thing is for sure, it's one of those books that you'll closed by saying " blimey! I would have stayed a little longer with them." The ending is very well done, nostalgic with a touch of hope and positiveness. A too happy ending would not be realistic and a too dark end... too depressing (I hate stories that end too bad!) The author managed to make me want to read more adventures of Sam, while allowing me to close the book without an aftertaste of unfinished business that we sometimes experience in series. This is probably because the next book won't be about unanswered questions, but about a character, Sam, with whom we want to live another adventure.

In a nutshell

An excellent book, fast paced, characters that you appreciate rapidly, a well-crafted and believable story. Runner has it all, this is a 5/5!

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