Surrender is not a Ranger word - but INTREPID is!
I have said this in previous reviews of Chris Allen’s writing, and I will say it again; as the INTREPID series goes on, both he and Alex Morgan get more comfortable in their skin. His approach to Morgan’s character is deepening, with his protagonist getting a little cooler in his approach, more wary of giving trust, but growing in his intensity and intelligence.
This time around, in RANGER, his INTREPID series novella, Allen demonstrates his always-on-the-mark passionate subject matter knowledge, interspersed with trademark wit and blasting action scenes - but also a degree of real-world grittiness that goes beyond anything we have seen yet.
The tone of RANGER is really summed up for me in two phrases – one, a quote at the very beginning of the book, and one towards the end (this is not a spoiler!). The first, words from FLOTUS Michelle Obama:
“When a Veteran comes home kissing the ground, it is unacceptable that he should ever have to sleep on it.”
And so we meet Morgan’s old comrade in arms, John Nash, a former – you guessed it – US Army Ranger, whom he hears from out of the blue. I won’t go into their back story, as that would contain spoilers, but suffice to say Nash is not in a good place, emotionally or physically. He is one of the untold numbers of US veterans living on the streets after returning from active duty, and simply fading from the system. His belief in his government is shattered, and he has lost everything. Now though, apart from his past as one of the US military’s elite airborne soldiers, he has witnessed a crime – one with the potential to blow the US federal system and then the country apart, and the only person he trusts to see justice done, and the right people punished, is Morgan.
From a firecracker start in the drug-lord heavy jungles of Peru, through to decisive, tightly written action in the political jungles of Washington DC, RANGER is Allen’s best writing yet. Not only do we see Alex Morgan facing his own demons, but we also have the chance of understanding just how serious the human fallout of modern warfare is for those who stand up and say ‘I choose right, not easy’. That trauma and stress is embodied in John Nash, an elite soldier who will always remain at his post.
“Yet, despite returning home to a thankless nation who were largely only interested in an endless torrent of sensationalist trash pop culture, at its core, his mission was still one of protection. He would always have a need to do what was right.”
For me, the action was almost secondary in RANGER to the extremely good plot and drivers for Morgan. That’s not to say there isn’t action a-plenty for fans of INTREPID’s way of dealing with those who choose the dark side.
But Mr Allen, I have to say, I am now waiting for Alex Morgan to step off the plane in – where was it again? Ka-
Oh wait. That really would be a spoiler. And just as he would have in combat, this Ranger deserves to creep on you unknown. And also just as a real Ranger does, this novella leads the way - in terms of highlighting a very real issue.
Message Heard, Understood – and Acknowledged, Mr Allen. HUA indeed.
RANGER (INTREPID 4.5 NOVELLA)
NINE AND A HALF OUT OF TEN
read it if you like:
JOHN LE CARRE, LEN DEIGHTON, VINTAGE CLIVE CUSSLER
& TOM CLANCY, FREDERICK FORSYTH, JOHN BUCHAN,
LEE CHILD, ROBERT LUDLUM