“The Choice: The Unexpected Heroes” is the sequel to “The Contract: Between Heaven and Earth”. As such, it’s a good idea to read the first book before this one to make sure you have the tale’s full context. As promised, it’s an action-packed tale with a fascinating and timely plot that keeps you guessing. Every time the protagonists uncover another link in the conspiracy to take down the US Government and create a One World Government, that person winds up dead with the protagonists themselves eventually turning up on the kill list.
The ending was satisfying, yet intriguing enough to look forward to the next volume, which is always good in a series. It’s not one of those cliffhanger endings that leaves you tearing you hair out. If you’re looking for a thriller that keeps moving (at least from about 25% onward) you will probably enjoy this book.
However, there are a few things that kept me from awarding this novel 5-stars. First of all, I found the fact it was written in the present tense to be a major distraction. By the time I was about halfway through the book, I got kind of used to it, but it was never comfortable. In many ways, it read more like a screenplay than a novel. I realize this is supposed to give a story a sense of immediacy, but for me the unconventional style kept jolting me out of the story. It’s okay to “break the rules” if it works, but for me, this didn’t.
I judge a book based on several elements, which I define with the acronym IDEAS: Imagery, Dialog, Emotion, Action and Suspense. This story does a great job with Dialog, Action, and Suspense. Imagery, however, was lacking. I would have enjoyed having better descriptions of what the characters looked like. Ironically, what they ate and when was explained in greater detail than their appearance. The scenery at the base was likewise lean, apparently assuming that most people have either been on a military base at some time or seen one on TV or in the movies, so they could fill in the blanks.
Some readers may prefer filling in these details from their own imagination. As a detail-oriented person, I enjoy knowing more about the characters and scenery so I can visualize it more easily. Such details also can contribute substantially to rendering the story’s mood.
The characters felt more like casual acquaintances than people with whom I felt an emotional connection. I realize that developing these story elements can sometimes slow the story down. Many action-oriented stories are likewise lean on imagery and emotion, so it’s somewhat typical of the genre. However, for me to find a story truly memorable, these are essential. I like to feel something when I read a story. If a novel makes me laugh, cry, or better yet, both, I will always remember it (such as Eichin Chang-Lim’s masterpiece, “Flipping”). Those that make me laugh I’ll often reread at some point (such as Scott Skipper’s “Alien Affairs” series).
Curiosity regarding what would happen next kept me reading, but nail-biting suspense regarding any of the characters’ well-being was never such that I couldn’t put the book down. (This can actually be a good thing, however, if you have to get up for work or school in the morning. Years ago, when I held a full-time job, I had to give up Tom Clancy and Michael Crichton books for that very reason.)
There were a few grammatical issues as far as word usage is concerned. Homonyms are challenges for many, one of the most common pairs to confuse the words shudder and shutter, the former of which is when a person is rattled or scared, the latter those wooden window coverings. The use of the word “patsy” was not the best word for the context of the sentence in one place, and the acronym BOLO was never defined, either, rendering that sentence impossible to understand.
These are minor, I know, but the editor in me picks up on such things, so I include them here to be helpful to other authors; the average reader is typically oblivious to such things.
Most authors, myself included, learn more from criticism, which improves our writing, while accolades merely feed our ego. More often than not, we’re blind to such things ourselves. On the other hand, an author’s style will seldom appeal to everyone. Some prefer more detail; others, less. Some prefer short, choppy sentences that keep things moving; others prefer prose that flows and is worth savoring.
As always, reviews are subjective. The high demands I place on a novel are probably off the charts as well as the average reader’s radar. That said, this timely story is credible along with having rather chilling implications. Pick up a copy on Amazon here and see for yourself.