Random Review: Hidden Order by Brad Thor

This review contains mild spoilers that will not affect enjoyment of the story.

Book Name: Hidden Order
Author: Brad Thor
Series: 12th in an ongoing series
Publisher(s): Atria/Emily Bestler Books, Pocket Books
Format(s): Hardcover/Mass market Paperback/Audiobook/eBook
Genre(s): Thriller/political thriller/mystery
Release Date: July 9, 2013

Rating: 7/10

I hate it when people who review books actually are reviewing the author (or more correctly, the author’s politics) instead of the book. I say that because you’re going to have to pardon me while I kind of do that same thing for just a couple sentences. Brad Thor and I do agree politically on a couple of things, but on the vast majority of stuff he far more conservative than I am. I knew this heading into Hidden Order, just as I have known this going into all of his previous works. It’s also a fact that’s generally true of most of the current crop of political thriller writers. I’m OK with that, provided the author writes a good book that doesn’t require absolute belief in his/her politics to enjoy. Thor pushes that envelope to the max in Hidden Order but in the end writes a reasonably good story.

In Hidden Order Thor takes on the Federal Reserve System in the guise of protagonist Scot Harvath investigating the disappearances of all the members of the shortlist to be named the new Fed chairman. What follows is a Dan Brown-esque story where Harvath is really taken out of his “action first” element and forced to turn investigator. Thor throws in the stereotypical hot sidekick in Boston police detective Lara Cordero for Harvath to play off of, with fairly predictable results. And yet, it works.

Don’t worry, there’s still plenty of action and Thor writes those passages as well as anyone. But unlike all of the other Harvath books instead of driving the story Thor has his main hero more along for the ride as other characters set the scene of the “hidden order” that the Fed is and the history behind the banking system in the United States. I kept expecting Robert Langdon to make an appearance as Thor winds his story through historical sites in Boston that the antagonist (who I shall not name in this review) uses as props. Although unlike Dan Brown nothing in Boston has been adapted for the story by Thor. All landmarks/locations are used exactly as they currently are or historically were in Hidden Order. That’s a huge plus in my book.

It being a Brad Thor book, we also have the almost required CIA black operations thrown in to help lead the reader down the wrong path a time or two. That’s one of two things I didn’t really like about Hidden Order. The side plot didn’t tie in well with the story and almost seemed forced into the story. I know Thor can, and has previously, done better there. It’s as if he felt compelled to add that in to keep his longtime fans happy. I think Thor could have added the required story information a different way that would have fit better.

The second thing I didn’t like, and it’s a total failure on Thor’s part: Harvath never asks who had access to the shortlist. You’d think a person investigating the disappearance of all the people on a single list would want to know who has seen that list. It certainly would narrow the list of suspects. But even if you go along with the idea that Harvath is not a seasoned investigator so that’s something he might not think of (and based on the previous eleven books, I’d debate that) you then have seasoned police detective Cordero not asking about it.

All in all, there’s enough in Hidden Order to make it a decent book. But Thor could have, and to be blunt should have, done much better. Thor either needs to learn some lessons about writing mysteries or stick to the thriller genre. Either would be fine by me.

More: Simon and Scuster have released a free prologue on their site. Not owning an e-reader I’ll have to read it on my phone, but in any case it’s not included in this review. There is also a free epilogue, which can be found right here on Scribd which also is not included in this review.

Some random book thoughts for August 2013

It’s funny when people talk about the summer months being the time they get a lot of reading done because, at least so far, the exact opposite has been true for me. After flying through the run of all the Michael Connelly books this spring I turned my attention to my biennial run of the seven seasons of The West Wing, which cut into my reading time somewhat.

In my last book posting I has just started The Wayfarer Redemption by Sara Douglass. I rated the book five stars on Goodreads because I couldn’t rate it any higher. The book, the first of a six book series that’s broken into two trilogies, was so incredibly well written it was easy to visualize every single action that takes place in the book. The book sat on my “to read” shelf so long my wife, who rarely reads the same books I do, has read the first four books of the series and said each one gets better than the one before it. I probably should have just run right into the second book of the series, Enchanter, but a few books at the top the shelf drew me in, so on to them I went.

I started reading Brad Thor’s books before anyone knew who he even was, and even though he’s not in the class of a Tom Clancy or Vince Flynn his thrillers are great page turners that have all been top notch. Black List is Thor’s twelfth novel, and while none of them would be considered Pulitzer or Nobel type fiction each has been a fun read. This one might be his weakest book, and it does take a significant amount of time for Thor to get around to explaining why everything is happening, but the non-stop action more than makes up for the slowness of the final plot developing.

Next up was Monster Hunter Legion, the fourth book in the “Monster Hunter” series by Larry Correia. The world the book is based on is a simple one–it’s right here, right now. The big problem is all those monsters you’ve read about since childhood are real but most people don’t know it because the governments of the world hide the existence of them. That’s where the monster hunters come into play. They’re contractors that kill these monsters to collect the PUFF (Perpetual Unearthly Forces Fund) and to keep the regular citizens safe.

It’s a great idea for a series of books, and while a little over the top they’ve all been really good. The one issue Correia is having with the series is the first book, Monster Hunter International, was such a great read that the other three that have come out in the series pale in comparison. I gave Monster Hunter Legion an easy 4/5 on Goodreads, but graded on a curve against the first book Legion would struggle for a three. I’ll still keep grabbing them as they come out (and you should too if you aren’t) but it will be interesting to see of Correia can come up with a story that was a good as the first book.

Now I’m on Crucible of Gold, the seventh book in Naomi Novik’s “Temeraire” series set in the Napoleonic era where both sides have intelligent dragons. It’s a well thought out series, and despite wishing that Novik had kept the action in Europe she’s had Temeraire and William Laurence traipsing around the globe. Crucible of Gold begins with them in Australia, which at this point in history is a penal colony they’ve been exiled to because of Laurence’s conviction for treason against the Crown. As the book begins the Crown has come calling on Laurence to reinstate him to the Air Corps for an important mission. Laurence has some doubts. We’ll see how it turns out as the book moves along.

If you scan through last month’s posting you’ll see I forgot to add in the books I was looking forward to seeing released. Turns out that wasn’t an issue because there wasn’t any. For the first time in a very long while I picked up absolutely nothing in my trips to the book stores of the area. A list of science fiction/fantasy books for August shows that may happen again this month.

There was some news in the book world I can share though. There’s a huge download on Tor.com of some great short stories. It will only be up for a few more days, but it’s well worth the time to check it out. After waiting for the last two books of the “Eli Monpress” series by Rachel Aaron to be released in mass market editions I decided to tweet at the author to see if/when they were coming out. Aaron shared with me that because of their size they wouldn’t be released in paperback. I laughed at her line “This was partially my fault, I wrote them too long for MMPB format”. I guess I’ll forgive her and it looks like it will be the trade format for those two.

Until next time…