Friday, August 03, 2007

New Jack Bauer Novel A Fun Read!
I’m a big fan of Kiefer Sutherland’s Jack Bauer character on the television show 24. I like the way Bauer is driven to get the job done no matter what, no matter who gets hurt. It sets him up as great flawed hero among his family and peers, but all of us who love the character know the price he’s paying to stop the bad guys.

I also have to admit that I can’t stand waiting from week to week for episodes of the new season. I have to make a deal with myself. I don’t watch the first-run showing of the seasons. After they’re finished, I wait until the DVD sets come out and buy those. I watch those straight through, more or less. It’s easier on me than having to wait every week. I know there are some people who enjoy getting together to watch the episodes and then rehashing the twists and turns of the plot as well as making predictions about what’s going to happen. I tried that it first, and it drove me crazy.

When I first found out Harper Collins paperbacks was going to be releasing new books set in the series, I was excited and dismayed at the same time. I was glad to get the extra Bauer adventures, but I didn’t know how the books were going to pull off the immediacy of the television episodes.

Nor did I want anyone to try to sandwich books between the ongoing series seasons. Bauer’s life changes from season to season and I prefer that that be shown within the television world.

Fortunately, with the tight driving plot lines of the series, publishers weren’t willing to risk trying to elaborate on stories set between the seasons. They elected to go back to earlier in Jack’s career and call the series 24 Declassified. This way we get to see the first season CTU (Counter Terrorist Unit) team in action all over again. From time to time, though, a few mishaps with canon will occur, or the characterization will not quite seem right.

One of the biggest problems in the book series is the fact that all of the television fans who read them know what Nina is really like. We know that she was not a good person, yet the authors of these books have to portray her as decent and professional. But no attempt can be made to evoke a lot of sympathy for character because we won’t buy it.

John Whitman and Marc Cerasini together have written six books in the 24 Declassified novel series so far. Chaos Theory is the latest in the successful run.

The book opens with Bauer interrupting a poker game and shooting one of the man dead. This prologue is set a few weeks prior to the opening hour of the next 24-hour run. It sets the plot into motion and raises questions. Two pages later, we learn that Bauer is in prison awaiting trial for murder of a man he shot in the prologue. Questions arise immediately, but they take back seat to the action that begins with a bang. Within minutes, Bauer is attacked by an Hispanic street gang in the shower. He has no idea why he’s been targeted, but he knows something has gone drastically wrong.

It isn’t long before the reader understands that Bauer is in jail because he wants to be. He has a mission on the inside. However, his cover has been blown because someone has taken out all three people that know he’s innocent. Bauer has no choice, as usual, but to take matters into his own hands and move events directly toward critical mass. This is typical, great Bauer action.

The plot is convoluted and multi-layered. The CTU team all have parts to play. Whitman does an excellent job of “seeding” events that lead up to betrayals and double-crosses that play out in the television series. This foreshadowing works well and doubles down on the pleasure the reader receives because not only is a new mission unfolding, the fans get to see some of the other pieces of the television series’ twists and turns fall into place.

The title, Chaos Theory, relates to the action in the book and a lot of ways. Everybody seems to take some part in the chaos that eventually unravels. Nobody’s plans, not Bauer’s or the villain’s, go as intended. Some of the twists and turns can be predicted, and some of the action is a little over the top, but there are some surprises.

I read the book on the plane on the way to San Diego Con this past weekend. With three hours of flight time ahead of me, I wanted something familiar to read that would easily grasp my attention and immerse me in a world other than the airplane. By the time I reached San Diego, I was totally engaged in the book. After arriving at my hotel, I settled in, put my feet up, and finished the read rather than going exploring. For me, that’s a sign of a good book.

Now I know there are five other Jack Bauer adventures awaiting me that I’ll probably be able to cram into my schedule before Season Six arrives on DVD. If you’re a 24 fan, and like to read, these books are for you. If you don’t like to read but love the show, I’d recommend giving these books a try. If the others are like this one, they are lean and mean and move with the same blistering bullet speed as the television series. You may find the book interface seems to disappear completely as Bauer’s adventures come to life inside your mind.

If the rest of the books are like this one, they’re just sheer good fun.

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