Monday, April 9, 2012

Guest Review: Scarecrow and the Army of Thieves





Reviewed by: Vishal Kale

The Plot
Dragon Island is a Russian Outpost in the Arctic Sea region housing one of the most diabolical advanced weapon laboratories devised by mankind. Unfortunately, Dragon Island is also the home of one of the deadliest weapons ever devised. And even more unfortunately Dragon Island has been captured by a renegade group of thugs calling themselves the Army Of Thieves. Their Agenda: World Destruction, which the thugs prefer to call the revenge of the disenfranchised and the downtrodden. The weapon is set to destroy everything in a matter of five hours – and the good guys have 5 hours to save the world. A small matter of travelling several thousand miles in 5 hours, overcoming the “gentlemen” and disarming the weapon. Enter Scarecrow – the hero. Scarecrow is Captain Shane Scofield, a battle hardened marine who is ideally placed a few hours away from the target. With him is a motley collection of people – a few soldiers and a few civilians. The rest of the book deals with how these handful civilians and soldiers save the world. There are more than a few twists and turns along the way that fundamentally alter the way things proceed, which makes for interesting reading.

The Characters
The book has only 2 real characters that have been properly developed: one directly and the other by inference. The direct one is Scofield, whose rugged nature, tough outlook and character is well brought out by references to the ugly past as well as by his actions in the novel. He comes across as frankly too good to be true, almost a superhero. His quick thinking abiities, toughness are all believable in that he is a highly decorated marine, and a battle hardened veteran. The disbelief is only in the exploits described in the novel, which leave you shaking your head in utter disbelief. The second character is the chief villain, who reigns over this novel by sheer brilliance and brutality. This is in keeping with the intentions of the novelist, who wanted an antagonist who was a match for the main protagonist. In this, the author has achieved success.
There are several other characters – Gena Newman, who has been reasonably well developed as a tough sergeant, Zack Weinberg, Corporal The Kid Thompson, Lance Corporal Puzo, Emma Dawson, Vassily Ivanov, Veronique Champion and Bertie the robot. Among all of these, you end up remembering only Bertie The Robot, who turns out to be a useful companion thanks to his armaments. Among the others, Emma, Zack and Newman share space occasionally with Scofield as supporting cast in various scenes.

The Analysis
First,  the good. The book is a good read, written in a fast and racy pace – almost hectic, a page turner. The lack of character development is in keeping with the story, which is only about 2 people. Further, the constraints imposed by the time-span as well as the need for a racy speed meant the character development had to be sacrificed. The entire plan of Scofield's party has been described well, making their progress almost believable. It is almost like reading the graphic, shot – by – shot description of a battle, which is only to be expected if one is travelling a few hundred miles on arctic ice to save the world. Not only that, if you have also managed to hold reader interest while you are describing the battle, then you can pat yourself in the back. And most important is the cliff-hanger climactic scene, which is a real humdinger and a genuine surprise, and totally in keeping with the quicksilver thought process of Scofield.
Next, the bad: at times, it gets a bit monotonous – battle after battle. Next, the entirely avoidable use of profanity which takes a bit of the fun away. Third, the needless torture scenes which could have been avoided.

In summation a good novel, a racy read. Ideally suited for journeys as it is a page-turner!

(Vishal Kale is a mid-level sales professional - an MBA in marketing with a passion for reading assorted fiction and Indian history / development. He blogs at www.reflectionsvvk.blogpsot.in )

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