I have become a fan of Brad Thor over the past few years. Through his signature character, Scot Harvath, Thor has explored America’s intelligence and military apparatus and the threats that face us both at home and abroad. He’s confronted political and social issues with a refreshing disregard for the prevailing opinions of today’s media and social elite. He’s also written some terribly exciting and thought provoking books. His latest, “The Athena Project”, is no exception.
In his last book, “Foreign Influence” (you can read my review of it here), Thor introduced an all female team of Delta Force operatives. The women of the Athena Project are a lethal combination of beauty, brains, and bullets. Based on real world recruiting going on in the military today, the need for the team is best described in the book itself:
Women normally attracted less attention in the field than men, and when they did, it was often a completely different kind. Give a woman a dog’s leash, one person said, and she could wander around anywhere. Put a woman in a car with a baby seat and she could sit all day surveilling a target without attracting much notice. Women are welcomed in places men were not and could get away with things men could never dream of. A female operative capable of kicking in your door, shooting you in the head, or cuffing you and stuffing you in a trunk was the last thing most bad guys would ever expect.
“The Athena Project” focuses squarely on the women of Athena – Alex Cooper, Julie Ericsson, Megan Rhodes, and Gretchen Casey. As the book opens they are chasing down an arms supplier who facilitated the bombing of a tourist bus in Rome during “Foreign Influence”. His capture and interrogation sets them on a path that takes them deeper and deeper into a terrorist plot to attack on a secret installation beneath the Denver International airport with experimental and deadly technology. With events unfolding in Europe, South America, and the U.S. – and players from the Russian mob all the way to the Nazis – the story occupies a broad stage. It’s a scope and feel that works well.
Long times fans will be happy to know that Scot Harvath does make an appearance in the story – but we don’t get a lot of time with him; a wise decision on Thor’s part. Harvath is present just enough to ground the story in the broader universe of his previous books, but not long enough to distract from the women of Athena. This is their book, through and through – with it’s own rhythm and flow. As an aside – I loved the cameo appearance by Harvath’s former fiancé, Tracy Hastings. When last we saw her, she was leaving Harvath; here she showed up as part of the action in South America. It was good to see Tracy again and see her as her own person – not through the lens of Harvath’s life. It reinforced the idea of an expanding universe – a very thoughtful choice.
There is an entertaining cocktail of influences and echos at work in this book. It has a different feel than the previous Scot Harvath books and while reading, I could not help but think of the TV show “Alias”. With its strong female lead, shadowy government agencies, and layers upon layers of deceit and mistrust – it’s hard not to see just a touch of homage there in “The Athena Project”. You will also find subtle hints of “Indiana Jones” at times, and a taste of adventure that will be familiar to James Rollins fans. Mixed all together, it’s an experience that will be both familiar to longtime Thor fans as well as distinct from his other books.
One thing I particularly liked about this story was the introduction (albeit brief) of a secret organization called The Amalgam. They are controlling events behind the scenes, driving towards something – something big. The question is – what is it? I was left with as many questions coming out of “The Athena Project” as I was coming out of “Foreign Influence” – and I like that. I like looking for clues to the bigger picture. In the real world, things are not nice and neat – wrapped up in 300 pages or less. Things are complicated. Things are interconnected. And almost always – there is more going on than first meets the eye. I’m anxious to see what the next piece of the puzzle is.
“The Athena Project” is a book well worth reading. Thor has created a group of female operatives that have the deadliness of a Glock 9MM with the style of a Gucci holster. The action is non-stop, the story is engaging, and there is the promise of bigger and better things to come. It’s clear in this book that gender does not have to be the deciding factor, or really any factor at all, in finding people to aggressively defend and protect our freedom and liberty. If they happen to be beautiful women – all the better. If you’ll pardon my crudeness, you might say that the women of Athena put the “ass” back in “kick-ass”. I’m just saying…
By the way – Brad, if you are reading this and ever have the desire to do a quick interview with a small, politically astute blog – let me know. I would love to chat.
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