Aaron, Richard. Gauntlet: A Novel of International Intrigue.
The first few pages of the novel had me worried, and I was about to follow through with my plan to abandon any book that didn't really interest me, when things began to pick up. And when they did, I found myself amazed at the fast pace of this novel.
Aaron is able to keep several stories on the go, uniting them when necessary to futher the overall plot, then separating the strands again to fill in background, motive, history. In this manner, he is able to introduce a substantial number of characters and develop them in depth without ever confusing the reader.
My favorite character, of course, is Hamilton Turbee, a highly functioning autistic mathematician and computer genius. (I'm not sure where the line is drawn in regard to a diagnosis of high-function autism and Asperger's, but Turbee has the typical difficulty of reading expressions and extreme difficulty and discomfort in social interaction.) Poor Richard, who annoyed me so profoundly at the beginning, grew on me until I suddenly realized that I liked him a lot! Indy Singh and Catherine in Vancouver might deserve a book of their own.
Even the villains in this novel are portrayed with enough understanding to keep them from being perceived as evil incarnate and, given the scenario that Aaron develops, this must have required some time and effort.
The story opens with 600 tons of Semtex scheduled to be destroyed in Libya. Some of the Semtex is stolen before reaching its destination, setting off the complex and fast-paced plot as the United States attempts to track the explosives before the terrorists can complete the threatened strike against an unknown American target.
After my first few doubtful pages, I was completely drawn in and found it difficult to put the novel down. There are several places where my heartbeat picked up noticeably. The novel follows different characters in different chapters, but without that awful technique of ending each chapter in a cliff-hanger. The development of the narrative in such a complex plot is remarkably smooth, and there are no instances of wondering which character the new chapter is following. Aaron moves seamlessly from Pakistan to TTIC headquarters to Vancouver, B.C. and from good guys to bad guys.
The drawback? The conclusion. Abrupt. Incomplete. No closure at all.
The ending, upset me a great deal, until I did some research and discovered that Gauntlet is the first novel in a trilogy. Still, while I love trilogies, I resent cliff hangers. I want some resolution, even if I know the story has not been concluded. I want to feel happy to know the characters I enjoy will return, not resentful about being left in the lurch. The feeling of being manipulated annoys me.
So, Mr. Aaron, don't leave us hanging for long and try to make the next book's conclusion a little less abrupt and unsettling.
If you've read this one, let me know, and I'll link to your review.
Fiction. Suspense. 2009. 488 pages.