Thursday, March 28, 2013

Spycatcher by Matthew Dunn

I wanted so badly to really enjoy this book. I'm not sure what my reasoning was, as I had this ARC sitting on my bookshelf for almost 2 years by the time I finally started it, but I recall really wanting to enjoy this. And I thought I would; it sounded so similar to all the other spy thriller books that are out there, and I thought I had found a new protagonist hero in Will Cochrane (there's only so much Alex Cross I can take before the stories become stagnant and redundant).

Unfortunately, I feel like Spycatcher fell short of my expectations. It was interesting to read this knowing that Matthew Dunn really did work for the MI6 in England, and so the story was based in facts regarding espionage in the governments of both America and England. The story itself, however, just felt flat. My biggest peeve about Lee Child's Jack Reacher series is that everything was so monotonous, and the characters seemed uninterested in their own lives. How can a reader become interested then? Spycatcher is a 2 out of 5 star book in my opinion, but because I know many other readers are much more interested in the Jack Reacher books than I am, I still recommend this to any Lee Child fans as they are very comparable.

From the publisher:
Will Cochrane, the CIA’s and MI6’s most prized asset and deadliest weapon, has known little outside this world since childhood. And he’s never been outplayed. So far…

Will’s controllers task him with finding and neutralizing one of today’s most wanted terrorist masterminds, a man believed to be an Iranian Revolutionary Guard general. Intending to use someone from the man’s past to flush him out of the shadows, Will believes he has the perfect plan, but he soon discovers, in a frantic chase from the capitals of Europe to New York City, that his adversary has more surprises in store and is much more treacherous than anyone he has ever faced—and survived—up to now.

My thoughts:
Okay, Cochrane is basically the bad-ass hero that was missing from "The Expendables". Willis, Stallone, Statham, Cochrane; they're all big and brawny and up for kicking some bad guy butt. And I get that. I like explosions and fight sequences and all of that. I need some kind of realism in it though. These guys need to take a few hits as well, otherwise it's a bad mock-up of Star Wars and James Bond.. The villains outnumber the hero a million to one, but can't hit their mark if they were aiming at the Titanic. It's unrealistic and boring and people need to be hurt. And yes, Cochrane sustains a few severe injuries in this novel, but what's weird is that he gets up by the next day, every time. And he's supposed to be in his mid 30's, easy. You don't just bounce back from some injuries, no matter who you are. It's weird how much things like this bother me sometimes.
Isn't there terrorist/villain training or something?
 And speaking of Bond, (SPOILERS) Megiddo really bothered me as well. Didn't he watch any action movies before? As the villain, you don't sit and talk with your rival about your plans. You show up, shoot him, and be done with it. Megiddo is the predictable villain who thinks he's infallible, and so tells his entire plan to the man he intends to kill, without really knowing for sure that things will work out that way. I mean, come on! If you fail, then the hero knows what the plan is and can stop it anyway!  (NO MORE SPOILERS)

Will Cochrane has suffered a lot in his early childhood and teenage years, and it helped to shape the man he grew up to be. I understand that. Especially from a psychological perspective, I'm not surprised he grew up to become a government agent, working to protect innocents from evil and harm. After what he witnessed and was involved in, it would have been surprising for him to do anything else like a normal person. And I can even understand the need to avoid relationships and social situations. I can't figure out why, even though this story was from his perspective, we the reader never really get true debates and inner discussions. He is very methodical and logical, and a lot of the novel reads as I would expect a calculator to read. There were a lot of moments where I had to manufacture the emotions that I felt I should be experiencing through Cochrane, because he repressed any emotions, and rarely even let them cross his mind. Is that really how spies function? Because if so, that's remarkable. And also psychopathic. I'm a psych major, I know these things.

The story itself was very interesting and well laid out- Cochrane must work with a small US special operations unit to take down a man responsible for most of the Middle East's terrorist attacks against the Western world, before he can launch a new attack against one of the western nations. I would have loved to see different interactions between Will and Lana, because I think it would have made reading this more enjoyable to see some emotions in Will's thoughts and actions, rather than his cold and calculating demeanor. Let's see some surprise, some true happiness, anything!

Sometimes I think I can be a bit harsh in my critiques of books. All I really want, though, is a captivating story, with characters that are fun to read about and potentially to relate to/identify with, told in a way that keeps my attention and takes me away from the real world for a while. That's not too much to ask for in a book, I hope. Anyway, Spycatcher was a bit unemotional for my tastes, but I think fans of Lee Child would enjoy this debut novel from a former MI6 field operative.

- Justin

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