PULSE is the first of the Chess Team novels by screenwriter-turned-author Jeremy Robinson, and this review is to set up the next review of INSTINCT, which is the latest Chess Team novel to be released in paperback before the third one, THRESHOLD, comes out in hardcover. Everyone up to speed? Good. Here we go:
by Jeremy Robinson
Thomas Dunne Books (original release May 26, 2009)
St. Martin’s Paperbacks (First Edition edition March 2, 2010)
PULSE combines the Tom Clancy military thriller with the historical adventure of Indiana Jones and the “moral of the story” from Jurassic Park. Does it stack up to the pedigree? Pretty much.
The entire story is based on the premise that the legendary hero Hercules was, in fact, a real person. And he traveled all the way to Peru to bury the head of a beast that’s also the stuff of legend: the Hydra.
In present day, an archeological dig has uncovered the severed head of the Hydra, and billionaire Richard Ridley will stop at nothing to uncover the secrets of Hydra’s regenerative powers. With the aid of geneticist Todd Maddox, Ridley and his Manifold Genetics team work on the process, which has only progressed to the stage that anyone who can regenerate also goes insane.
Ridley’s plan is to not only perfect the formula for his own immortality, but to put it up for auction to the highest bidder – including some of the world’s most ruthless terrorists. When he recovers the Hydra head, he also kidnaps archeologist George Pierce, who’s been hot on the trail of Herculean artifacts for a great deal of his career. Pierce is abducted under the nose of the story’s hero, Jack “King” Sigler, leader of a special Delta team with chess-related call signs: Queen, a beautiful and deadly blonde; Bishop, a giant of a man with anger issues; Knight, the smallest of the team; and Rook, the one who craves action and can’t sit still.
If Micheal Crichton had written a version of Rainbow Six, PULSE might be it. The story moves along at a good pace, leaving the reader with just enough time to breathe before diving into the next action set piece. And the action sequences are carefully laid out, leaving no confusion even in the more complex scenarios. And while this may not have the level of complexity as a Clancy yarn, it manages to weave a pretty intricate tale while at the same time, building a world and introducing characters.
The technobabble is just enough to make the situations believable, not over the top so you think you’re watching one of the bad episodes of TNG. Robinson has done his research, it’s clear, and he balances science with paramilitary and archeological bits & pieces while keeping several story balls up in the air at the same time. When they come together, it’s a pretty satisfying yarn.
The one picky part I have is the fact that the Ridley character has too much Lex Luthor in him – a bald tycoon bent on world domination and immortality. The only thing I didn’t get from Ridley was “Land, land, land”. But the character himself was enough not like Luthor, that I can look past the physical description.
Some have criticized Robinson for making his characters “cardboard cutouts”. I think their back-stories make this a weak criticism. Given that the military appeals to certain types, and the special ops people are even more of a type, it’s only logical that the Delta team in PULSE is going to resemble other special ops teams in other stories. It’s no different than Rainbow or Delta Force. King is essentially a family man, even though his family is the team. Queen has confidence and self-esteem issues that she overcame by becoming one of the top operators in the Army. Bishop is a giant of a man who’s constantly battling his own demons, even more so at the end of this story. And Knight seems to be the emotional core, the one who doesn’t give up on any of his team, even though they may be compromised.
All in all, it’s a good action-packed techno-thriller with just the right mix of mythology and high-tech gadgets to make PULSE a recommended read. Besides, who doesn’t like a good Hydra story?