Monday, 18 February 2013

The Atticus Kodiak Novels Are Good Books

Or why you should read Keeper, Finder, and Smoker by Greg Rucka.

Before he wrote comic books, Greg Rucka wrote a series of prose novels about Atticus Kodiak, a personal security agent. They are, as the thriller genre demands, some exciting, suspenseful novels. They are also a good deal more intelligent and progressive than I was expecting given my previous experiences with Thriller books (which I often find jingoistic and predictable). Rucka's thriller novels are also exceptionally well written in kind of a fascinating way.

Thrillers are designed to be exciting. Functionally this means that the books are punctuated by thrilling action sequences separated by tense, drawn out builds to these action sequences. Kind of like genre literature dub-step: a suspenseful pause before the bass of action drops. But novels can't really just be standoffs and shoot-em-ups; they require character development, stage direction, and key infodumps which add critical context and empathy driven stakes to story outcomes. All of these under the hood story mechanisms are required to make a novel work as emotionally resonate literature.

In his Atticus Kodiak novels Rucka displays an incredible knack for establishing these all important story logistics. From a broad standpoint the Kodiak novels conform to the formula of Thrillers: the novels run on a fuel of  fearsomely exciting action sequences and breathe-catching suspense sections. These parts of the novels are great, but I think part of what really makes these books remarkable is the sheer engineered efficiency of the intervening logistics. Rucka, like some kind of old world artisan, seems to effortlessly slot together story elements to simultaneously establish new status quos, reposition characters, and provide plot advancing information all while also developing the characters and the relationships which form the emotional core of his stories. All of this is accomplished with such quiet competence that I frequently lost track of all of this as it happened, the story becoming seamless, until the logistical mechanism completes itself, unexpectedly snaps into motion, and drops the floor out from underneath the current status quo to initiate the next tense build and action sequence. I guess what I'm trying to say is that Rucka's Atticus Kodiak novels are like some kind of elaborate trap which crushes even wary readers in their emotionally resonate Action jaws.

I'm also trying to say that you should read them.

Keeper: I wrote a longer thingy about this book already. So briefly, Keeper sees Atticus Kodiak trying to protect a women's health provider and her daughter from anti-choice extremists in a delightfully progressive and exciting book.

Finder: Atticus Kodiak is tasked with protecting Erika Wyatt, the runaway daughter of his former commanding officer as a gruesome custody battle unfolds between her parents and is complicated by two rival Bricks of SAS comandos. It's twisty as all hell, complicated, and emotionally nasty. I quite enjoyed it.

Smoker: Atticus Kodiak, while down on his bodyguarding luck, gets dragged into protecting a key witness in a Tobacco lawsuit from one of the Ten most deadly assassins in the world. What follows is an elaborate cat and mouse game played out in brutally tense detail. Smoker is an absolute white knuckler of a novel.

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