“Foreign Influence” is not a story for the weak of heart in matters of national security, or squeamish in the matters of intelligence gathering. If you are the person that turns from the screen when Jack Bauer holds an ink pen to the eye of a terrorist on “24” – this is not the book for you. It takes an unflinching look at situations and people that many folks, sleeping in their warm beds at night, want to believe don’t REALLY exist in the world. Well – these people do exist – and without them, the warm beds would be few and far between. It is unapologetically conservative, and takes on both radical Islam and Liberal groupthink alike, without concern for political correctness. In short – it’s a great book.
This is the ninth book from Brad Thor, featuring ex-Navy Seal Scot Harvath. You don’t need to have read the previous Harvath stories to appreciate and enjoy “Foreign Influence” – but having read them will give this book the comfortable feel of catching up with an old friend. In this novel, Harvath is working intelligence and covert ops in the private sector. When a bus full of students is bombed in Rome, long time Harvath nemesis, and sometime ally – The Troll – is implicated in the plot. When The Troll is savagely attacked and almost killed, Harvath is dispatched to Europe to bring him in. Once there, Harvath comes to believe that The Troll is NOT responsible for the attacks, and joins in the hunt for the true terrorists. What he uncovers is a deeper plot aimed squarely at the US and our way of life.
There is a lot going on in this book. I’ve barely scratched the surface above, and that’s by choice. I don’t want to dive too deeply into the details of the story – it’s all connected together in a vast and subtle tapestry that you should read for yourself to enjoy. I will say that there are loose ends tied up in this book (such as Harvath and fiancée Tracy’s relationship), as well as some interesting new players introduced (such as the Athena Squad – an all female covert operations team). Long-time and first-time readers will each find plenty to enjoy here.
If I have one criticism of the book it is that it reads like what it really is; a prologue. The story is engaging, fast paced, and well written – but you can tell that it is essentially the foundation for a deeper and more far reaching narrative. Thor has talked about an appearance with Glenn Beck last year that served as the genesis of the story. They discussed the probability that foreign governments had operatives in our country, trying to take advantage of the turmoil that we are currently experiencing. After doing some research, he found that one hostile nation had actually published a white paper detailing plans on how they could topple the United States without ever meeting us on the field of battle. He thought that would be a great basis for a thriller and set to work. He told Beck in a recent interview around the release of “Foreign Influence”:
As I went after this in the research, I realized I had bitten off more than I could chew in one book and I realized that this was going to be a couple of books. And the plan, as I started peeling back the layers of the onion and seeing these groups that have been put together to overthrow the United States, as I was doing this research, what I was able to find through talking to intelligence sources, people in the military, things like this, it is stunning how long, how patient these people have been inserting themselves throughout the country and putting themselves in different places and how they’ve been working to put this entire plan together.
You can see in that statement a good indication of the direction that this story is going to take. It’s only going to get bigger. Thor does his homework, and has great sources both inside and outside of the government and the military. He writes to entertain, but also to inform. He is an author who prides himself on lacing his fiction with a strong flavor of authenticity and intrigue. In fact, he worked for a time as part of an analytic Red Cell program – a think tank of people put together to help the government look beyond the horizon and anticipate what our enemies might do next. That tone of informed speculation and projection can be found here in his prose.
Thor has said before that reality is the bedrock of a good political thriller. While “Foreign Influence” is most definitely a work of fiction, it is also firmly rooted in reality – there are echoes of the real world we live in, found in theses pages. That’s what makes it both thrilling and terrifying at the same time. It pulls no punches and is not afraid to ask tough questions. It’s a great summer read, and one that should make you think. For me, though, the entire book was really a set-up to pay off the very last page of the story. As much as I enjoyed it, what I really want to know is – what happens next? That’s the sign of a really good storyteller. I’ll guess I’ll just have to wait until “The Athena Project” is released in November to find out.
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