Novel Review – Alpha by Greg Rucka (2012)

I’ve mentioned before how Greg Rucka makes me re-evaluate the quality of my own writing because he makes it seem so easy. His level of dedication to detail and pacing makes me sit in wonder. With Alpha, he starts the first installment of a planned new trilogy centered around aging military operative Jad Bell in a somewhat absurd  setting, telling the story of a terrorist plot set within the confines of a Disneyland analog called WilsonVille where armed terrorists take over the park and make the usual threats and demands all the while wearing foam cartoon character suits.

Rucka really knows how to nail the dichotomy between the real-world military thriller and the fun of an action/adventure novel. The story is tight, the action is well written and fast paced. None of this reads like an overly serious Tom Clancy novel while certain elements do feel directly lifted from his wheelhouse and then meshed with the tongue-in-cheek tone of certain James Bond stories. It gives the novel a very unique feel and makes it a fun one to read. I tore through it in almost a single sitting and didn’t even realize it until I stopped to take a bathroom break.

I was lucky enough to meet Greg and listen to him speak about the novel at a local bookstore when I bought my copy. He talked about how the book was an attempt to take all of the cliches that you find in this particular brand of genre fiction and twist them into something new. That’s why we get the ex-wife and the child who is distanced from the grizzled father. It’s why we get the faceless and voiceless villain. Rucka is truly having fun with all of these elements and it makes for a spectacular read that gives you everything you would want out of a book like this.

I cannot wait for the sequel. This could end up being a personal favorite series of mine if Rucka goes in the direction I think he is. I’m not sure if he will because he loves to play with conventions, but I’m sure I’ll take the ride no matter what.


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