Tomorrow, May 22nd, Greg Rucka’s new novel Alpha drops, introducing new protagonist Jad Bell. You should really get out there and buy it, or click on your digital readers and order it.
If you don’t know Greg’s work, he’s known for many things, from writing every major hero in comicdom to the supremely awesome Lady Sabre and the Pirates of the Ineffable Aether. He writes books, too, great books, and every one of his novels feature a great eye for detail, jargon, place, and character. Exciting plots. Great stories. If I could, in all honesty, turn and point at the author and writer I want to be, I’d point at Greg. I study his work to try and improve mine, and anything I do well of late, I can pretty much lay at his feet.
I was fortunate enough to get a look at Alpha, the first Jad Bell novel, before it hits the streets. I don’t think it’s unfair, having read everything else Greg has done with prose, to say that he’s created his best action hero yet. We walk with protagonist Jad Bell through a damned spectacular set of confrontations with a series of terrorists, who take over WilsonVille (essentially a variation of Disneyland) and start doing all those terrible things we see in our post 9/11 nightmares. There is a complication, I won’t spoil it, that makes the conflict personal between Jad and the terrorists, and it changes duty-bound conflict into personal moral terror. The end result is a satisfying tension that I envy, I envy, I envy the man’s ability to create, and a satisfying read.
As a breakout novel for a series character, this is an amazing debut. As a standalone novel, it blew me away. I say, without being glib, that I’m looking forward to the day not long from now when I see this on a big screen, because if this book doesn’t get the treatment, there’s no damned justice in the world. Yes, I know there’s very little justice in the world, but live in hope. If we can have Battleship, I will see an Alpha movie.
It’s the subtle touches that make the book. The prose is masterful. The flow is superb. Jad is a wonderful, technically spot-on character, and his family and crew grant flavor that makes you truly care. The world, even, gains a character that I’ve rarely seen in prose, with such attention to the surroundings that you start to feel a part of the scenery, but without that awful sense that the writer is describing wallpaper to pad the word count. Every inch of WilsonVille feels real, and the details surrounding it are used to enhance the peril and give you a precisely cinematic feel of the world you’re mentally walking around in.
From the establishing moments to the exciting climax, this is a book I’ll study in the years to come, and have already studied, to learn how to do what I want to do better. If you don’t, it’ll be your loss.
Full disclosure: Greg and I know each other. Even fuller disclosure: I don’t plug a thing unless I really, really dig it, even if someone I knew wrote it, so ignore the first disclosure as journalistic duty.