BEA'S BOOK NOOK "I can't imagine a man really enjoying a book and reading it only once." C. S. Lewis “If one cannot enjoy reading a book over and over again, there is no use in reading it at all.” ― Oscar Wilde

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Review of "Targets of Opportunity" by Jeffrey S. Stephens

Publisher: Gallery Books
Release Date: Aug. 30, 2011
Buying Info:  Amazon     The Book Depository
Book Blurb (from Amazon):


 In Targets of Deception, which suspense master Robert K. Tanenbaum called “a fast-paced thriller,” Jeffrey Stephens introduced CIA agent Jordan Sandor, whom bestselling author Steve Alten praised as “terrific.” Now Sandor is back, playing for bigger stakes and facing deadlier challenges. 

Whisked from his Manhattan town house to a gabled CIA safe house in Virginia, Sandor faces off with a top terrorist agent from Iran’s Revolutionary Guard. In exchange for protection from his own side, Ahmad Jaber is offering the CIA explosive information: word of a secret, unholy alliance forged among operatives in the Middle East, a ruthless South American, and Kim Jong-Il’s North Korea. Jaber claims not to know specific details, only that the strike will target the heart of America. 

The fanatics stage a stunning diversion in the Caribbean, mercilessly downing a passenger jet and unleashing an assault on a French intelligence installation. Sandor, however, has already moved in a different direction. Leveraging Jaber’s information, he assembles a small strike force to penetrate North Korea. The team knows they will not all return, but the intel they gather will be vital to American security.

As a storm rages in the Gulf of Mexico, word comes that two submarines have penetrated U.S. waters. With the U.S. military hampered by the hurricane, Sandor turns to a few daring U.S. Navy SEALs to duel with the enemy they cannot see . . . for now they know only that there are two nuclear weapons aimed at a target of opportunity whose destruction would change the world order forever. 

Brilliantly conceived, electrifyingly paced, Targets of Opportunity captures a terrifying twenty-first century reality: terrorists can—and will—try as many times as they need to attack the United States. For the brave men and women who defend our country, failure is not an option.

Teaser: "If he doesn't give us everything he has, and I mean right now, then all deals are off." "Understood." "You tell him from me, if he screws with us I'll feed him to Jordan Sandor, one piece at a time."

My Thoughts:

Stephens takes current events, mixes them with common thriller and suspense tropes and ends up with a fast paced political thriller that will keep you engrossed to the end. He shows us events from the perspectives of  the book's hero, Sandor; the defector whom Sandor hates but must now deal with, Jaber; and the mastermind of the events, Adina. Adina and Jaber are better fleshed out while Sandor is more of a cardboard thriller hero - rogue and rule breaker, check; ladies man, check; only man who can save the world, check; a loner, check; a true blue American patriot who sees the world in only black and white. There's not a lot of depth to his character. Sandor, like most political thriller heroes (or even other thrillers) is the type of hero who works hard, plays hard, and lives life to the fullest. He's loyal to his country, right or wrong, and his men, and would willingly sacrifice his own life to save theirs. 

Adina started as an idealist, he believed in his causes, but that slowly changed over time. Now, he delights in causing mayhem to his enemies and firmly believes that might makes right. He despises the materialism of Western society while indulging himself in it; he acknowledges his hypocrisy but doesn't care. He is also a master at manipulating events and people and though he's a careful planner, he is able to adjust rapidly when circumstances demand it.

I have to say that I actually sort of liked Jaber. He's a terrorist, and proud of it but Stephens takes us deeper. I wish he had done that with Sandor. Adina is in the middle, more developed than Sandor but less so than Jaber. Anyway, we spend time in Jaber's head and also see his genuine feelings for his country, his religion and his wife. I even, at times, understood why he did what he did while disagreeing with his actions. Stephens presents him in a sympathetic light while never letting us forget the atrocities that he committed.
Stephens spins out the story a bit at a time, never completely revealing what's going on but unveiling the details, and the twists and turns, so that most of the time, we learn what's going on at the same time that  Sandor and his associates do. This despite the fact that we spend part of the book in Adina's head. Stephens is careful to not reveal anything before he's ready for us to know it but it never feels like he's straining to hide anything. The plot is complicated and a bit over-the-top but it also felt scarily real. The story is fast paced, there's a lot going on, and with all of the twists and turns and secondary characters, I sometimes felt that I needed a scorecard. It's definitely not a book to read in fits and starts like I did. It's best read in a few sittings.

About one hundred pages into the story I was wondering how on earth the book was going to stretch out to over four hundred pages, things were going so fast. I was worried that Stephens might pad it and unnecessarily stretch it out. Instead, the books length comes from the twists and turns and the details that Stephens sprinkles here and there. It could have a bit of trimming towards the end, but otherwise it's length

 I received this hardcover from the publisher for review.

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