Monday, 13 May 2013

Critical Space, Patriot Acts, and Walking Dead Are Good Books

Or why you should read the second three novels in the Atticus Kodiak Series by Greg Rucka

The second three Atticus Kodiak Novels are, I think, a trilogy unto themselves. It is difficult to talk about plot specifics in these novels without hitting major *SPOILERS*, but basically they are about the return of Drama, the world renowned assassin from Smoker, and what happens when she is pursued by another of The Ten assassins for failing to kill her targets, the lengths she will go to protect herself, and the lengths Atticus will go to do what seems right. From a plot perspective there is a pretty dramatic shift from Atticus Kodiak as the bright, stoic Personal Security Agent (Bodyguard for the ill-informed) with a slightly problematic temper who champions progressive causes to an Atticus Kodiak that has fallen out of his life and into something darker and more complicated. From a thematic standpoint these novels, while still properly thrilling, are much more challenging, tackling some pretty awful topics and placing Atticus in some morally awkward positions. And the result of this change are novels that are distinctly intense, in this very intimate and emotionally affecting manner. I really enjoyed them.

I think this shift in focus and quality is partially due a change in Rucka's writing. Where the first three Kodiak Novels are thriller novels crafted with exact timing and delicate components moving with smooth, well lubricated motions, this second ersatz-trilogy is much rougher. Those same lean thriller story mechanisms are present, but they have been deliberately abraded to create a different kind of storytelling machine. And this all makes for a much rougher reading experience: one where you are at once sliding along a Ruckian plot-chute until you hitch up on a patch of moral corrosion, arrest on it, and dangle uncomfortably from it. It is, at times, emotionally eviscerating, but is also completely engrossing and thrilling and dangerous.

I mean, seriously, there are moments in these novels that are literary gutshots. Moments of looking up from the book, bodily ejected from the prose, and emitting an audible "woof" at the events portrayed. It can be rough, guttering going, especially in Walking Dead.

Basically if you liked the suspense and action of The First Three Kodiak novels but wished they had more of the Noir-infused grit and challenging ethics of A Shooting At Midnight, you will love Critical Space, Patriot Acts, and Walking Dead. Just expect to get beaten and tore up a little during the ride.

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