Dark Zone (Op-Center #16)

1250130255.01._sx450_sy635_sclzzzzzzz_Tom Clancy’s Op-Center: Dark Zone by Jeff Rovin
My rating: 2.5 of 5 stars

The Crimea has become one of the most dangerous places on the planet as it could spark a war that no one really wants, but for some that is exactly what they’re counting on. Dark Zone is the fourth book of the Op-Center reboot as original series author Jeff Rovin joins George Galdorisi as Op-Center is faced with rogue elements in Ukraine looking to start a war with Russia that will force NATO to join.

A female Ukrainian agent meets with the former U.S. ambassador in New York to get information about Russian military movements and is murdered by a Russian assassin then her fellow agent apart of the Ukrainian embassy is also murdered by the same assassin. The U.S. ambassador learning of his friend’s murder gets in contact with Op-Center about his conversation with her and that her apparent murderer keeps calling him with her phone. Director Williams sends a two-man team to meet the ambassador only for them to save his life from the assassin and his accomplice. Meanwhile in Russia, Putin appoints an ambitious yet cautious general to command an enlarged military base to project so much power against Ukraine that they will simply be defeated mentally. Unbeknownst to Russia is that a famous Ukrainian tank commander has set a trap for them which included the appearance online of a VR program of their huge military base which led to the murders in New York. Williams and Op-Center after finding the VR program come to the conclusion that a rogue faction in the Ukrainian military is planning to start a war between Russian and NATO with an attack on the base that will cause Russia to attack Ukraine. The Special Forces team is sent to the region to observe but in route they find the team that is to attack the base and send the force to intercept them. The Ukrainian commander leads a large assembly of tanks—out of nowhere—towards the border and the Russian commander response by leading his tanks to the border, leaving the base open for attack through the Op-Center Special Forces team is able to stop them just outside the Russian base though the Ukrainian team leader is killed by a sniper which causes a grenade explosion. The Russian commander is ordered back to the base, already relieved of command due to failing to secure his base; the retreat of the Russians from the border is a victory for the Ukrainian commander even though the attack on the base didn’t happen as his goal was to embarrass the big bad bear. Williams and Op-Center are happy to prevent a war, but they decide to prevent the next Russian assassin to take up station in New York by outing him to the NYPD who threaten to leave or die as a terrorist.

This was a great military-political thriller for anything connected with Ukraine and Russia, but Op-Center and their Special Forces team are just around. Honestly if this book did not have anything connected with Op-Center written in it this would have been a great exciting read, but because of the Op-Center stuff in it this is a middling book. Everything connected with Op-Center just felt like it was put in there because this was an Op-Center book, not that anything was particularly bad but as I got further into the book I cared less about what was happening in and around Op-Center or what they were going to do and see if the Ukrainian plan would work in anyway. I guess Rovin and Galdorisi were showing that sometimes Op-Center is blind to the realities on the ground and can sometimes only do little things to protect U.S. interests but that would effectively undermine the organization from a reader’s viewpoint so, I’m just confused as to the structure of this book.

Dark Zone is a mishmash book with one great story element and one that was just meh, unfortunately it was the series titular organization and their personnel that were the meh story element not that they were bad but because they weren’t interesting. Jeff Rovin in his return to the Op-Center series and George Galdorisi is what appears to be his last effort created a Ukrainian-Russian mini-conflict but totally failed to be relevance to Op-Center existence in a book in its own series.

Op-Center

Wild Card (Power Plays #8)

0425199118.01._sx450_sy635_sclzzzzzzz_Wild Card by Jerome Preisler
My rating: 2.5 of 5 stars

There is trouble in paradise as oil, murder, and long-lived shadowy cabals overshadow Trinidad just as UpLink is setting up an installation. Wild Card is the eighth and final installment of the Power Plays series written by Jerome Preisler as Pete Nimec goes to Trinidad on a working vacation and steps into international intrigue while suspended Tom Ricci goes renegade to rescue a kidnapped daughter for a small-time Mexican cartel leader.

Over two centuries ago, a French nobleman living on Trinidad and an English pirate form a partnership that their descendants continue by selling oil to rogue nations that the United States have put an embargo on. A Trinidadian Jarvis Lenard escapes from a rogue element within a high-end resort’s security force after his cousin attempted to blow the whistle and was murdered, staying for weeks in a nature preserve causing fits to the rouge security force. Pete Nimec is sent to look at the new UpLink project in Trinidad as well as figure out about the mysterious emails they received, he sees an oil transfer not knowing at the time what he saw but later figures it out, but the rogue security teams aims to kill him and his wife while they’re enjoying the resort. Nimec and his wife escape on a boat, making their way to the nature preserve where Lenard is hiding and swims out to them as Sword helicopters come in and scare off the rogue security team’s helicopter. Meanwhile Tom Ricci is on leave from UpLink after saving New York City because he did so without letting local, state, and federal authorities as well as the company know what was happening. Ricci links up with the former DEA agent that has helped him on two previous occasions, helping save a kidnapped young woman whose father is a Mexican cartel leader while starting a friendship with Julia Gordian.

Unlike the previous book in the series, the three subplots that were not only worth their print on paper but came together to create a satisfying whole. The first and only prologue in the series that showed the creation of the centuries-old partnership between the families of a French nobleman and an English pirate that had their descendants coming up with this oil smuggling scheme that is found out. While the character development was sparse for returning characters, one-off characters had development put into them—especially Jarvis. If this was written to be a quick page turner it succeeded but given the scattered shot subplots not only in this book but the previous one the well of ideas had run out for the series.

Wild Card is the final book of the Power Plays series, the ending of which was written in a way so that Jerome Preisler could either continue it or not depending on the publisher. While a drastic improvement over the previous book in the series, this book showed that the series did not have enough legs to continue.

Power Plays

The Girl Who Lived Twice (Millennium #6)

1101974176.01._sx450_sy635_sclzzzzzzz_The Girl Who Lived Twice: A Lisbeth Salander Novel, Continuing Stieg Larsson’s Millennium Series by David Lagercrantz
My rating: 1.5 of 5 stars

Two sisters, mirror opposites, have been on a collision course for years and now it comes to a head on either side of an investigation into an ill-fated Everest expedition. The Girl Who Lived Twice is the sixth book of the Millennium series and third by David Lagercrantz, sees the final confrontation between Lisbeth and Camilla after finding out the truth behind an incident on Mount Everest.

Lisbeth Salander attempts to kill her sister Camilla in Moscow, but can’t pull the trigger and goes to Copenhagen and gets into a relationship with a domestically abused woman while spying on her sister and helping in-a-slump Mikael Blomkvist investigate the death of a homeless man. Blomkvist’s investigation happens when a coroner calls him because the dead man has his phone number and Mikael learns the man accosted a female journalist spouting about the Swedish Defense Minister who is enduring a disinformation campaign from Russia. The homeless man turns out to be a Sherpa who was apart of an ill-fated expedition up Mount Everest that caught global attention because of the death of a socialite who was on it, but it turned out so was the Defense Minister before his political career. It turns out the Minister’s friend was working for the Russian mob and essentially killed the socialite for her American billionaire husband who is also connected with the mob and convinced the Sherpa to leave her and help the Minister off the mountain instead. The Sherpa feels guilty and after the death of his wife loses his mind and wants to tell the truth, but the Minister is convinced to get him out of Nepal to a asylum in Sweden but he later escapes and the Minister’s corrupt friend killed him then started blackmailing him resulting in him almost committing suicide but Blomkvist saves him. While Blomkvist is going to interview the Minister, he is abducted by Camilla and her associates to be tortured and get Lisbeth to them. Lisbeth now in Sweden, tracks them down, and confronts her sister who attempts to set Lisbeth on fire only to light herself up instead and kills herself because she is no longer beautiful. The Minister’s corrupt friend is arrested, Mikael’s new lover writes the article about the truth of the ill-fated expedition, and he learns of Lisbeth’s “help” at his stalled article.

While Lisbeth and Mikael are “featured” they aren’t the heart of the book, that goes to the characters created by Lagercrantz that are connected with the main plot of the mysterious Sherpa and an ill-fated Mount Everest expedition he was apart of along with the future Swedish Defense Minister and his friend as well the socialite that died on it. Throughout Lagercrantz’s books in the series, Lisbeth has been sidelined and Mikael has been “used” more but only for original characters to have the spotlight. If the Mount Everest plot had been a book not connected to the Millennium series, I might have really enjoyed it more. But this series is supposed to be about Lisbeth Salander and throughout the last three books it has not been. The “climactic” confrontation between Lisbeth and Camilla at the end, is so disappointing that the build up over the previous books was a waste as well. Frankly Lagercrantz’s Lisbeth is a pale imitation of Larrson’s Lisbeth thus making this and the previous two books a waste.

The Girl Who Lived Twice might be billed a Lisbeth Salander novel, but in fact she’s just a name so David Lagercrantz can sell books.

Scorched Earth (Op-Center #15)

1250130220.01._sx450_sy635_sclzzzzzzz_Tom Clancy’s Op-Center: Scorched Earth by George Galdorisi
My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

After making a huge propaganda killing against the United States, a terrorist leader is incensed when a retaliatory strike hits too close to home and makes his war even more personal. Scorched Earth is the third book of the Op-Center reboot and the first exclusively by George Galdorisi as retired Admiral Chase Williams coordinates his Op-Center team in fighting the war on terror that has suddenly become personal on both sides.

General Bob Underwood—a special presidential envoy for the Global Coalition to Counter ISIL—is kidnapped after his security detail is massacred then hours later is beheaded on live television. American forces retaliate with a strike on Mosul resulting in the death of the ISIS leader’s son, his father promises vengeance. A homegrown terrorist cell kidnaps the admiral who oversaw the strike on ISIS but are accidentally foiled in their attempted to send him to Mosul to be killed and retreat to a hideaway in rural Maryland. Based off information that it’s Geek Team Op-Center’s SEAL team is sent to Iraq to investigate all the aircraft delivering to the city, but come up empty resulting in the Geek Team backtracking and the terrorist cell and finding their location in Maryland. Op-Center’s CIRG team locates the house and rescues the admiral while taking out half of the terror cell. Meanwhile the admiral’s son, a SEAL himself, believing the Navy fumbled the ball goes AWOL to Iraq with help from an old teammate and infiltrates the ISIS headquarters in Mosul but is captured. The SEAL team, with information from the Geek Team, with a contingent of Rangers rescues the prodigal son while shaming the ISIS leader.

Like the previous book this was a quickly moving story was an engaging read from start to finish, especially the first two-thirds of the book when the kidnapping of the admiral was the main plot. However, once his son decided to go rogue the end of the book was relatively telegraphed paint-by-the numbers ending. Yet despite the “going rogue” cliché and the ISIS leader’s desire to “go live for the evening news”, the action was particularly good which made up a tad for the head shaking narrative turn. Overall Galdorisi’s solo effort was good and while I wish he would have avoided the stupid “going rogue” trope as it probably would have improved the book some, it did not ruin it.

Scorched Earth is a good military-political thriller and is George Galdorisi only solo effort in the reboot series, so far. While I did not like subplot that finished off the book, it did not make the book bad and throughout the action scenes were solid. Overall, this book is better than a vast majority of the original Op-Center run.

Op-Center

Zero Hour (Power Plays #7)

0425192911.01._sx450_sy635_sclzzzzzzz_Zero Hour by Jerome Preisler
My rating: 1.5 of 5 stars

Precious stones, secret technology, and black-market deals plus New York City makes for an interesting combination that slowly finds UpLink getting involved via an unexpected source. Zero Hour is the seventh book of Tom Clancy’s Power Plays series written by Jerome Preisler who brings together secondary characters from previous books to join the main cast.

Patrick Sullivan leaves his mistress’ apartment to meet his buyer of artificially created sapphires as well as plans for a laser gun codenamed Dragonfly but is killed by his buyer and becomes a missing person. Sullivan’s employer, a Pakistani national who doesn’t know Sullivan stole the plan, is planning to use the laser gun for a massive terrorist attack by releasing a deadly acid vapor cloud over New York City as well as sell the other prototype to Muslim freedom fighters in Kashmir. Sullivan’s wife goes to an UpLink employee who was his last meeting and asked for Sword’s help—thanks to newspaper reporting on UpLink’s help to find the Russian conspirators who attacked Time’s Square—to find her husband. The employee goes around the local Sword leader to Roger Gordian to ask for the favor forcing the new UpLink CEO to send Tom Ricci to New York to investigate the matter. Ricci and the local Sword leader discuss her investigation into Sullivan’s employer on what to do with the Sullivan matter then Ricci goes to upstate New York to spy on Sullivan’s employer and sees men packing things into a U-Haul that he tails to a nearby motel and has a local Sword operative observe it while learning where it was rented. Unfortunately, one of the terrorists make the lookout and arrange an escape, but Ricci meets with Sullivan’s murderer and learns about the Dragonfly that he connects with where the U-Haul was rented. Ricci leads a Sword team that intercepts that van just before the laser gun was powered up.

Honestly the above synopsis is leaving out two subplots that at the end of the book amounted to just taking up space even though one was entertaining and had potential to add to the overall story but fizzled to nothing. Upon ending this book it wasn’t hard to rate this the worst book of the Power Plays series as nothing really came together and Preisler focused on characters who in the end amounted to nothing in the overall scheme of things while a character study on Ricci was underwhelming. And as one of the shortest books in the series it really tells and exposes one of the biggest weaknesses of Preisler’s writing.

Zero Hour is short and devoid of coherence in the various narrative threads while focusing on characters that in the end did not having anything to do with the endgame. Jerome Preisler has written some good installments of this series, but all the things he’s done wrong in the so-so installments were on display making for a disappointing book.

Power Plays

Into the Fire (Op-Center #14)

1250092108.01._sx450_sy635_sclzzzzzzz_Tom Clancy’s Op-Center: Into the Fire: A Novel by Dick Couch
My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

The hermit kingdom is looking to take on an apparently limping superpower by once again scoring a propaganda coup by taking a naval crew hostage, but this time Op-Center and a resilient US Navy Commander have different ideas. Into the Fire is Dick Couch and George Galdorisi’s second installment in the Op-Center franchise reboot which sees North Korea and the United States on a collision course for war and the crew of a US ship caught in the middle.

After finding substantial reserves of oil and other energy resources in the Yellow Sea, North Korea negotiates with China to get military equipment in exchange for said energy resources, so China doesn’t have to depend on the Middle East. However, to get those energy resources North Korea needs to expand its claim in the area and plans to do so by taking a crew of a US Navy ship as hostage believing the U.S. would agree for something so simple as changing the lines of their territorial waters. Masking their operation at sea with troop movements to the DMZ, the North Koreans target the minesweeper USS Milwaukee during a joint exercise with South Koreans. The Milwaukee’s captain, Kate Bigelow, unknowing that she’s the target leads two North Korean ships on a chase before a missile strike cripples the ship forcing her ground it on a small South Korean island not far from the North Korean coast. Just before the attack, Op-Center’s top Geek Aaron Bleich notifies Director Chase Williams and begins following the high-seas drama until the ship’s grounding. Williams sends Op-Center’s Joint Special Operations Command team to Japan where it gets together with local SEAL team to find a way to get the crew off the island as the North Koreans and a US Fleet are at literal arms-length from the island on the verge of war. Using an experimental minisub to ferry the crew from the island to waiting nuclear subs, the JSOC stops a North Korean commando unit before calling in cruise missiles to destroy the Milwaukee. However North Korea’s supreme leader wants to send a message to the world and activates a terror cell in New York to destroy the UN, but Bleich’s Geek team finds out and notifies Williams who sends in a FBI Critical Incident Response Group team to New York to stop the attack. After one of the North Koreans calls her mother to say goodbye, not believing her leader’s promise they’ll make it out alive, Bleich’s team gives the CIRG and NYPD a location near the UN to surround and prevent the team from accomplishing their mission though they commit suicide and takeout a CIRG helicopter with a quarter of the team. The US and China come to an agreement about isolating North Korea and the energy resources in the Yellow Sea, but neither side is happy especially the Chinese at the loss of face at North Korea’s actions.

The focus on one plot was in instant improvement over the initial book of the reboot of the franchise helmed by Couch and Galdorisi, then add a quickly moving story that keeps the reader engaged throughout. The Op-Center team in Washington headed by Williams and prominently featuring Bleich and his Geek Team was well executed, yet the Op-Center personnel with the JSOC team seemed a little heavy on direct involvement from office personnel like Mike Rodgers did in the original series. Kate Bigelow was the character who did the heavy lifting through the book and was well written, unfortunately her first officer was a cliché out-of-his-depth liability that was a poor attempt to make Bigelow look better when she didn’t need it.

Into the Fire is a action-packed, quick moving thriller that keeps the reader hooked from beginning to end. Overall Dick Couch and George Galdorisi brought together an intriguing plot and great cast of characters to bring forth a good book, though there are missteps it doesn’t hurt the book too much to make the reader lose interest.

Op-Center

The Girl Who Takes an Eye for an Eye (Millennium #5)

1101974168.01._sx450_sy635_sclzzzzzzz_The Girl Who Takes an Eye for an Eye: A Lisbeth Salander Novel by David Lagercrantz
My rating: 2.5 of 5 stars

Months after confronting her sister and feeling that she is become far to well-known, Lisbeth Salander can’t help but stand up for the underdog as well get revenge on those that made her childhood hell. The Girl Who Takes an Eye for an Eye is the fifth book of the Millennium series and second written by David Lagercrantz that follows Lisbeth Salander and Mikael Blomkvist as they examine the twisted history of Sweden’s recent past.

Nearing the end of a two-month jail sentence for crimes committed while protecting August Balder, Lisbeth Salander observes that Bangladeshi prisoner Faria Kasi is tormented nightly by ruthless prisoner Beatrice “Benito” Andersson. Already needing to use a computer after a visit from her former guardian Holger Palmgren informs her that she was involved in something called the Registry. Suspicious, Salander forces the Warden to let her use his computer, where she learns the Registry is a secret project that places exceptional children in specific environments to test the effects on their growth. Salander asks journalist Mikael Blomkvist to investigate in her stead, pointing him to wealthy businessman Leo Mannheimer. Blomkvist learns that Mannheimer had been acting strangely lately and comes to suspect that not only does he have a twin, Dan Brody, but Brody has been going around pretending to be Mannheimer. Meanwhile Palmgren’s investigation alerts Rakel Greitz who poisons him and takes the file. Blomkvist arrives too late, but Palmgren tells him to find Hilda von Kanterborg, a former Registry agent whose initials were in the file, before he dies. Blomkvist tracks Hilda down and, though she doesn’t believe Dan stole Leo’s identity, she confirms that they are twins. She also tells him that Greitz tried to take Salander away from her family as a child as part of the experiment, only for her to react violently and escape. Blomkvist confronts Mannheimer who, after saving him from Greitz’ henchman Benjamin, reveals that he is Dan and why he’s impersonating his brother. While this is happening, the Warden of Flodberga makes plans to transfer Benito to another prison. Upon learning this, Benito prepares to kill Faria, which she reveals she was hired to do by Faria’s brothers. However, Salander stops and severely injures her, sending her to the hospital. After Salander is released, she investigates Faria’s history, learning how she ended up in prison and that her brother Bashir hired Benito. Salander tricks Bashir into confessing on video and convinces Faria’s younger brother Khalil to do the same to the police for a murder he committed. She then plans to go after Greitz after talking with Blomkvist, only to be kidnapped by Bashir and an escaped Benito. She gets an alert out to her hacker allies, who manage to track the truck they’re in and alert the police. With Faria’s help, the police find them just as Salander escapes and arrest Benito, Bashir, and their colleagues. After recovering from a wound sustained in her escape, Salander confronts and subdues Greitz and Benjamin, deciding to spare the former so she can suffer the shame of her reputation being ruined as she’s arrested. Faria’s charges are lowered and she’s presumably released. The people involved with the Registry are sent to prison as Millennium publishes Leo and Dan’s story. Everyone who knew Palmgren gather for his funeral, where Salander makes a speech about her guardian.

While the novel is entertaining in areas, the plot is sluggish and the tension relying on an overreliance of annoying tricks. In fact, the book doesn’t feel like a Salander novel as it’s labeled because compared to the Larrson trilogy she’s only an instigator to the plot while Blomkvist feels to be more important of the two main characters. Lagercrantz’s own created characters were focused on more than Salander thus making it seem like she’s only billed on the cover to sell books. Its hard to know that if this book wasn’t connected with the Millennium what I would think of it, but given it is I’ve got to rate it the lowest of the series so far even after a good previous installment.

The Girl Who Takes an Eye for an Eye feels off from the rest of the Millennium series and doesn’t measure up to David Lagercrantz’s previous effort in the series. While some parts are entertaining and add to Salander’s mythos, she is in the background of a book that bills her as the main character.

Cutting Edge (Power Plays #6)

0425187055.01._sx450_sy635_sclzzzzzzz_Cutting Edge by Jerome Preisler
My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

In equatorial Africa as a small nation attempts to become a leader in the region through its offshore resources and becoming headquarters to information revolution for all of Africa, but who is in charge is suddenly up in the air. Cutting Edge is the sixth book of Tom Clancy’s Power Plays series written by Jerome Preisler, as Roger Gordian’s UpLink International takes over a pan-African fiberoptic network he unexpectedly finds himself against Harlan DeVane who’s attacked his company and tried to kill him already.

Offshore of Gabon two divers for a French technology company die after sabotaged by Harlan DeVane’s associates which leads to the company selling their fiberoptic network to UpLink and getting government approval even though DeVane bribed numerous politicians to stop it. Pete Nimec leads the Sword team as UpLink moves into the country as DeVane plans to strike at UpLink and Gordian himself. DeVane begins to harass UpLink’s buildup including an assault on a convoy, but as a distraction for his main strike against Gordian. DeVane activates his mercenary agent who activates his sleeper sell in the United States that stalks the Gordian family before finding a target, his daughter Julia. The DeVane’s crew abducts Julia from the greyhound rescue shelter she’s been volunteering at, killing one of the owners and her infant daughter in the process. After the police visit UpLink headquarters, Tom Ricci begins investigating her kidnapping skirting around the police to get evidence that quickly leads to the conclusion it’s the same man who he faced off in Ukraine and Ontario. DeVane sends Gordian a ransom message to dissolve his company immediately or his daughter dies, however before Gordian decides to do so Ricci finds where Julia is being kept and leads a Sword team that rescues her and kills the mercenary that’s trouble them for years. In the end, DeVane slinks away from Gabon.

Preisler emphasize characters and technology throughout the book, not at the expense the plot but the narrative was quickly transitioned from one time period to another until towards the end during Julia’s kidnapping. Though Preisler does a great job at exploring DeVane’s, Nimec’s, Ricci’s, and the mercenary’s characters in this book and keeps the reader hooked; yet the departures into technological explanations bogged the book down at times. This book was longer than the previous installment which resulted in a overall better book.

Cutting Edge is a return to the very good standard that Preisler established in this series after the substandard previous installment. With DeVane exit at the end of the book, the best subplot of the three of the last four books is finished with a bit of satisfaction for the reader that’s invested in the reading the series.

Power Plays

Out of the Ashes (Op-Center #13)

1250066700.01._sx450_sy635_sclzzzzzzz_Out of the Ashes by Dick Couch
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The combination of the refocusing of intelligence after 9/11 and Congressional budget cuts shuttered the original Op-Center, fifteen years later after the worst terrorist attack since 9/11 the new President decides to reestablish it. Out of the Ashes by Dick Couch and George Galdorisi relaunched Tom Clancy’s Op-Center series as former four-star admiral Chase Williams is tapped by a new President to relaunch Op-Center to avenge the latest terrorist attack and work to prevent the next one.

A rich Kuwaiti couple are assaulted in New York by upset Giants fans after a game resulting in the wife being braindead, her husband hires a Indonesian engineer/terrorist-for-hire that results in a attacks on four NFL stadiums and hacked other stadium’s PA to cause panic. In the wake of thousands of dead, the new President and his National Security Advisor decide to reform Op-Center are surprised when Paul Hood turns them down only to learn he has ALS, but did bring his recommended pick former Admiral Chase Williams who the President approves after along discussion. It takes Williams three months to get a skeleton version of Op-Center up and running with the focus on the Kuwaiti and the Indonesian who are taken out by Joint Special Operations Command team under Op-Center’s control. Almost a year and a half later, a Saudi prince in charge of a oil pipeline through Jordan and Syria finds the new Syrian government an obstacle and decides to have the U.S. get rid of it. Hacking a military drone, he makes it appear that the Syrians have missiles that can take out the newly arrived U.S. carrier group which sets off the U.S. military to begin planning an attack on Syria. The new leader of Syria goes to Iran to ask for help and the new Grand Ayatollah mines the Strait of Hormuz adding fuel to the Saudi prince’s plan. However, a civilian analyst realizes there is issue with the drone footage and send it to her former colleagues at the NRO who agree and determine the site is in Saudi Arabia but the captain of the ship she is on refuses to send the information up the chain of command. However, Op-Center intercepted the emails and redirected their JSOC team from investigating Syria to the site in Saudi Arabia only for the civilian analyst and a Navy helo pilot to take it upon themselves to go to the site and get shot down by the prince’s on-site leader and captured. The JSOC team rescues the two women, “interview” everyone on the site, and send the information to Op-Center which is sent to the White House stopping all plans for an attack on Syria. But the President orders a strike on Iran’s mining capabilities, which results in the Iranian leader to order a Sarin attack in Washington as retaliation. Even though Williams warns the FBI Director repeatedly, the attack still occurs. After Williams gives the President the information his team had collected, the President orders the death of the Grand Ayatollah and destroys the Iranian navy as retaliation. The civilian analyst loses her job and the helo pilot her wings, but both are recruited by Op-Center.

The book suffered not from two authors but two different stories that could have each made a good book being shortened and mashed together. This resulted in the actual Op-Center portions of the book being shafted with only Chase Williams the only character connected with it being given depth and character interactions shown being stilted and dry in comparison to the scenes in the Middle East were the characters and dialogue were more rounded and livelier. Yet despite the mashed together stories, Couch and Galdorisi did one other “mistake” and that was the helo pilot and civilian analyst’s rogue trip seemed more Hollywood than reality which the author’s were at pains to portray actually though there was a goal in mind as seen at the end of the book though it had been telegraphed the entire second half of the book. Yet the book was fast moving and kept the reader interested if you were able to figure out quickly that it was essentially set up for the future books.

Out of the Ashes restarts the Op-Center franchise though a book that contained two stories that would have been good books on their own but were forced together by either the decision of the authors or by the publisher. Dick Couch and George Galdorisi gave an interesting preview of what they might bring the series though it could also very easily make one not continue given the issues with the book.

Op-Center

The Girl in the Spider’s Web (Millennium #4)

1101872004.01._sx450_sy635_sclzzzzzzz_The Girl in the Spider’s Web by David Lagercrantz
My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

The triad of Big Brother, industrial espionage, and organized crime suddenly find themselves in the crosshairs of a very intelligent young woman who has the means to make their lives difficult. The Girl in the Spider’s Web is the fourth book in the Millennium series but the first written by David Lagercrantz in replacing the late Stieg Larrson as Lisbeth Salander and Mikael Blomkvist find themselves racing to save the life of an 8-year old boy savant from a dark triad of corruption wanting him dead.

Uber-intelligent computer scientist Frans Balder leaves his Silicon Valley job, returning to Sweden to take custody of his autistic son August. He later learns from several sources his life is in danger but ignores the warnings until his paranoia makes him call Mikael Blomkvist. But as Blomkvist, who is intrigued with Balder since he hired Lisabeth Salander to find who stole his research, arrives just as Balder is murdered in front of his son who can draw picture to appear lifelike while also a mathematic genius. The group that killed Balder is already being tracked by Salander, who had hacked the NSA to get information on them and their “allies”, and after learning of Balder’s death starts following the case when she learns there is a leak in the murder investigation and that August is targeted because of his skill. Shot in the act of saving August, Salander takes the boy with her to keep him safe thanks to the efforts of Blomkvist and others including one of his young colleagues. But then the group comes after Salander they target Blomkvist first and he comes face-to-face with Camilla Salander which wards him from the trap, but his younger colleague isn’t so lucky and after lengthy torture divulges Lisabeth’s location. Camilla and her gang attack, but Lisabeth takes out three of them—though not her sister—allowing August and she to escape. An NSA employee comes to Sweden and uses Blomkvist to out his corrupt coworkers and leadership, but Lisabeth gives Blomkvist the information she got from the NSA to add to the “whistleblower” interview.

Though it’s been several years since I read the original trilogy, I did notice a difference in this book with my memory. Both Lisabeth and Blomkvist are similar but more brooding than what I remember which made a difference as the book went along. Lagercrantz’s writing style compared to what I remember of Larrson’s was noticeable, while not bad it changed the feeling of the “world” Larrson created and how the narrative was structured. There was similarities and stark differences that this both a familiar and weird at the same time. Overall, the fact that I’m still interested in reading the fifth book should give an indication that it’s a fine continuation of the series.

The Girl in the Spider’s Web is a good continuation of Stieg Larrson’s Millennium series with David Lagercrantz taking the reins in writing. While there are noticeable differences to go along with some similarities, the latter was enough to keep me interested in reading the next book and to see how it goes.