Thursday, February 6, 2020

Book Reviews Reloaded: Sunfail

This article first appeared on East Niagara Post on February 9, 2016. It is repeated here as I work to put all my book reviews in one place. They will be posted on Thursdays or Fridays and only be altered from the original in that I will add publisher information and pages. Hopefully, by revisiting these reviews, other people might find a book they'd like to pick up for their own enjoyment.

Sunfail -- Steven Savile
Infamous Books
321 pages

End of the world books seem to be coming fast and furious lately. Everyone seems to have a take on how we will succumb, and how the scattered pockets of humanity will survive. The causes of the fall of Man are wide, however, occasionally, a new plot device enters the published works. Such is the case with Sunfail by Steven Savile.

An abrupt flip in the Earth’s poles renders the world nearly helpless. Electronics across the globe fall dark. Birds plummet from the sky. Anything that requires a stable electromagnetic field ceases to function properly. Simultaneous with this natural disaster comes concentrated terror attacks upon the world’s financial markets. Of course, the end of the world means profit for someone.

Jake Carter, a retired Special Forces operative, finds himself deep below ground, working as an electrician for the New York City subway system when the disaster strikes. His training kicks in and he works to find out what has struck his beloved city. He is quickly drawn into a world of deep conspiracy. Old friends and enemies must work together to uncover the truth about rogue gangs striking sensitive fiscal institutions in the city.

Carter and his ragtag team uncover the workings of a hidden cabal, intent on utilizing the distraction of the polar shift to acquire total control of the world and that of nearly every penny on the planet. It is discovered that the ancient Mayans were forewarned of the impending disaster and left notice in stone. Discovered in a previously unknown city beneath the waves of the Gulf of Mexico, the tablets and the information they contain are under the control of this shadowy group bent on domination. Only Carter and his friends can stop or control them. Information is power.

The action in this book is quite entertaining, if somewhat unbelievable. The protagonist, mostly working alone, is able to stave off and defeat groups of trained assassins. Several times, he faces certain death only to escape over and over again through eerily similar breakdowns by the evil henchmen.

As protagonist, Jake Carter is the quintessential stereotype of all reluctant heroes who came before him. He is a damaged soul who has lost his family under mysterious circumstances, who ironically is the only person in the city who has the training to take on mysterious and deadly foes, and has the network of friends who can assist him in his endeavor. He is able to convince former friends to rejoin his ranks with nary any persuasion.

The plot starts off with amazing speed and great action. The first two-thirds of the book are fast-paced and engaging. Despite some of the unbelievable aspects, this novel will keep you turning the pages. For the last 50 pages, or so, Savile runs into Stephen King Syndrome where it seems like he doesn’t know how to end the book. At the conclusion, the reader is left with many questions. There are many loose ends that beg to be answered, though not enough to warrant a sequel.

Easily my least favorite part of the book is the ending. After spending the entire book killing off anyone who knew of his plot, even his own workers, the man at the head of the cabal simply lets Carter and his friends go free. It’s simply implausible after the build up by the author. As a reader, the conclusion is grossly unsatisfying.

Steven Savile has not let his own political ambitions go unheeded. The author is blindly against the 1%. Everything evil in the world must be part of a hidden Republican conspiracy. Every move by the party dating from the discovery of the tablet and Reagan’s election to the Presidency leads up to the events in this book. It is all black and white for this author. Anyone who makes money is inherently evil. Those who eschew wealth are branded heroes. If only real life were so easy to define.

Absent these ambitions and a weak ending, Sunfail is actually a very well written book. It will grab your attention and keep you turning the pages as you attempt to figure out how our heroes will escape the traps set for them. 

Craig Bacon occasionally forgets to finish a senten….