I had planned to make my next post about music, Disneyland, the Tim Powers Alternate Routes signing, the Darius Rucker concert, etc. But I haven't organized my thoughts enough on any of those topics to blather about them here yet. So until I do, here are my thoughts on an e-book I just read, Perimeter, by Mike Rothman.
I was contacted by another author last week, Mike Rothman, who is self publishing a novel, Perimeter, on Amazon and was looking for some semi-intelligible reviews (emphasis on semi in my case).
The very brief description available on Amazon (and identical description on Goodreads) didn't really leave me full of hope that this would be a book I'd enjoy.
Levi is a "fixer" in a fix.
The CIA needs his help. The Russian mob wants him dead.
With enemies closing in and nowhere to turn, he learns that the one person who may hold all the answers ... is his dead wife.
I went back to Amazon and Goodreads today and saw that the book's description has been fleshed out with a lengthier synopsis. But, to be honest, the synopsis probably wouldn't have piqued my interest any more than the initial description did. It just doesn't sound like a genre I find especially enjoyable. Which is kind of funny, because I love the Jason Bourne/Jack Reacher/Jack Ryan/James Bond International Man of Mystery movie/TV genre. If that's all Perimeter had been, I might not have enjoyed it much. Fortunately (for me, anyway), the book is a little more than just another impossibly tough and skilled super dude running amok, thrashing bad guys and saving the day. Not a lot more, but a little more.
First, a brief description of the story's protagonist: Levi Yoder. Though not entirely a spoiler, it was surprising to me that Levi is an expatriate Amish (or whatever you call an Amish guy who gives up the Amish lifestyle and moves to the city to live amongst the "English"). My early impressions of Levi were that he is, despite his dubious occupation, a good guy. There's almost no profanity in Levi's internal monologue or spoken dialogue (the first two chapters don't get profanity worse than "heck," "crap," or "hell") and his motives always seem to be pure. I prefer a protagonist in my stories that is on the side of angels. Or who is, at least, morally unambiguous.
Pretty early on, the events of the story felt a little Tim Powers-ish. So I suspected the supernatural was going to play a big role in the story (which can detract-from or add-to the story, depending on how well it's done). If a book is set in a universe where supernatural stuff exists as a normal thing, then supernatural elements in a story aren't a huge problem. But in a story where nothing else is different from the world around us, supernatural elements have to be deftly handled to not feel goofy - Tim Powers is great at this. I'm happy to say that Mike Rothman is also good at keeping the supernatural elements from dominating the story (or at least turning it into a cartoon).
Speaking of well-handled stories with a supernatural bent (at least initially - we'll pretend the sequels never happened), Highlander ranks among my favorite all-time films, and parallels the events in this story (a little bit, anyway). Here's a brief excerpt to show why I see this similarity (a conversation between Levi and a monk who is, essentially, immortal):
"I've lived with this for longer than you can possibly imagine. I can't explain how or why it has come to pass. I've visited with doctors, and they cannot explain it. Oh, they certainly want to study it, but I don't think there's yet an explanation that medical science can give. This thing that we share makes some aspects of our lives terribly difficult. The ones we love, they all grow old and die." The monk's expression turned somber, and he pressed his lips together into a fine line. "That's truly the most terrible part of what we share."
And a little later:
I have no idea how you received this thing, but I can smell it on you. It's almost like the way an animal can recognize its own kind by the scents in the air.
It's very Highlanderish. But there are definitely differences - which I will keep to myself to allow for some mystery when you read the story. Actually, the supernatural elements of the story are almost more comic book than supernatural - beginning with the origin of the change that occurs in Levi's cancer-ridden body. The antics of everybody's favorite X-Man, Wolverine, come to mind. He's super fast, super tough, heals fast, etc.
There's quite a bit of Jason Bourne-type fighting action. Don't worry, there's an explanation for why Levi is able to handle himself so readily in the preceding chapters. I like this scene, set in an Afghani village:
A clatter sounded behind him, and he turned to see a woman, clad from head to toe in a black burqa, exclaiming something unintelligible as a half dozen cans of food spilled from her over-filled canvas bag. She cursed under her breath and scrambled after the cans as they rolled away.
Without thinking, Levi scooped up one of the cans that came to rest near his foot. He approached the woman and handed the metal container to her. "Here you go," he said softly in halting Farsi.
The woman's eyes widened through the narrow slit in her burqa, and the background sound of people haggling over prices at the nearby stalls suddenly grew quiet.
An Afghani man who'd been standing next to the woman yelled at Levi in Dari, "You pig! How dare you!"
The woman backed away, and three men approached, two of them wielding knives.
It dawned on Levi that he'd probably made some huge cultural faux pas that he was about to pay for - in blood.
With his body tensed, he dropped the can and backed away.
A man's arm snaked around his neck from behind. Without thinking, Levi grabbed the man's wrist with his left hand, raised his right shoulder as he'd done thousands of times before, and ducked forward, escaping the grasp of his assailant. With a quick twist of the man's wrist, something snapped, and the attacker screamed.
From the corner of his eye, Levi caught sunlight glinting off metal. He ducked just as another man slashed at him with a foot-long knife.
The blade came within inches of Levi's face, but he swept the man's feet out from under him. The man hit the ground, his breath blasting from his lungs.
Levi slammed an elbow into another attacker's face and felt the man's cheekbone crack.
Suddenly the sound of boots racing across the rocky ground echoed all around him, and American voices screamed warnings in multiple languages. "Hands up! Drop your weapons!"
Within seconds, Levi and his attackers were surrounded by a dozen soldiers, all aiming assault rifles at them.
click here to show the full quoted excerpt
Though the profanity starts out really light, it picks up quite a bit as other characters enter the story and includes a great many f-bombs. Interestingly, the pretend profanity (crap, heck, etc.) is interlaced with the heavier profanity throughout the story - and not just from the Levi character. There is a little bit of sex-related content, but it's not explicit - more TV-MA than R-rated.
I'm looking forward to the further Adventure of Levi Yoder. I'd rather read them in a physical book, but I might be able to motivate myself to read them on my tablet. I just have so many books to read on my tablet already...
I'll try to get to all the other stuff soon. I also need to work through the backlog of books I've read over the past few months, so you have that to not-look-forward to, Dan.