Blowback Book Review

I’ve been on a high recently with thrillers, so I decided to expand my suspense-filled horizon with Brad Thor. From what I’ve gathered, Brad Thor is a thriller novelist, known for the Scot Harvath series. For those who don’t know, Scot Harvath is an ex-Navy Seal, now a Secret Service agent. His books have garnered accolades from many organizations, including NPR, who listed his fourth Scot Harvath novel Blowback as “100 Best Ever” Killer Thrillers in 2010. Today, I’m looking at that book, and while it’s a good action thriller, I wouldn’t necessarily put it on a best list.

In Blowback, Harvath’s counterterrorism career crashes and burns after footage of him beating up an Iraqi fruit vendor turns up, but wait, the president brings him back after the War on Terror takes a chilling turn. Underneath an Alpine glacier, a weapon that was designed to destroy the Roman Empire has been discovered. It’s up to Harvath to retrieve this ultimate weapon of mass destruction before another organization takes it and uses it for America’s downfall.

As I had predicted in the “What I Am Reading” series, it was certainly action packed. Almost every chapter contained the main character running from danger, discovering dead bodies, or fighting the bad guys. It kept my interest, which is what an action/adventure thriller is supposed to do. 

Scot Harvath stands out as an action hero because of how vulnerable he can be. Throughout the novel, he thinks about his age and contemplates on settling down even though his job prevents him from getting into long-term relationships. 

So then, how does Brad Thor stand out from other action/adventure suspense authors? That’s a very good question with a simple answer. He’s willing to include politics into the story as the subplot involves a highly ambitious Democrat senator and her attempt to get into the Oval Office. Her name is wait for it…Helen Carmichael (do those initials ring a bell?). She wants to prove that the video of Harvath beating up the vendor is really him, so she can turn the voters against Republican President Jack Rutledge. 

As one has figured, Thor is more conservative than his peers, but he incorporates his political views in very subtle ways. It also helps that the Helen Carmichael plot is just as engaging as the main story, and the twist resolution is great!

How about the main plot? It’s good. The beginning was a bit slow due to all of the exposition. The middle moved faster than a barefoot jackrabbit on a hot greasy griddle in the middle of August. The moment I got engaged with the book was when Jillian Alcott – a British paleopathologist – was introduced. She’s pretty badass; she even kills a high ranking Al-Qaeda official. Also, like Emma in Nighthawk, Jillian has some good banter with Scot. Sadly, it has come to my attention that she’s not in any other Scot Harvath book.

Another thing that made me intrigued with the novel is the talk about the weapon itself. Scot and Jillian learn a whole lot about it, especially how Hannibal may have used it while crossing the Alps. Now, I understand that some readers might be bored by these passages because in some ways, they stop the momentum of the book. For me, those sections made the novel far more interesting since it adds understanding to how the weapon was used and how it could be utilized in the present day. I’m also a history person, and it’s clear that Thor really likes ancient history. 

And then the third act came along, and I don’t know why, but I could barely remember what happened during it. At that point, the book seemed to jump from one place to another, and it lost me. I’m sure there are readers who love the climax, but I couldn’t get myself into it. I blame the history sections.

In addition, the book was published in 2005, which was during the Iraq War and the War in Afghanistan. This means that the bad guys are mostly Muslim terrorists, which sadly permits casual racism in the book. At one point, Scot remarks that while not every Muslim is a terrorist, every terrorist is a Muslim. I understand the sentiments at that time, but did Thor forget that the Oklahoma City Bombing was perpetrated by people who weren’t Muslim? I could ask the same question with Scot, yet I haven’t read any of the prior books in the series. What I’m saying is that some of the writing has not aged well. At the same time, I’m going to give it a benefit of a doubt, for maybe Scot has evolved on his views on terrorism in future novels, especially the Islamic kind.

All in all, Blowback by Brad Thor is an effective action thriller. It stands out in many ways than one, more good than bad. I wish the ending to the main story grabbed my attention more, but that might just be me. I would recommend this to those who read similar books by Clive Cussler and Vince Flynn. 

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Published by emilymalek

I work at a public library southeast Michigan, and I facilitate two book clubs there. I also hold a Bachelor's degree in History and Theatre from Aquinas College in Grand Rapids, MI; a Master's degree in Library and Information Science from Wayne State University in Detroit, MI; and a Graduate Certificate in Archival Administration also from Wayne. In my downtime, I love hanging out with friends, play trivia and crossword puzzles, listening to music (like classic rock and K-pop), and watching shows like "Monty Python's Flying Circus"!

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