Sunday, 2 February 2014

Slingshot by Matthew Dunn

Berlin, 1995

Each step through the abandoned Soviet military barracks took the Russian intelligence officer closer to the room where men were planning genocide.

It seems we're doing a lot of thrillers that involve the word Soviet lately. Perhaps the publishing industry is subconsciously or consciously trying to tap into the Olympic Games' market - you know, read a thriller about evil Soviets while watching the Games in the ex-Soviet Union. Entertainment tie-ins like this are worth millions.

This opening line is effective; it possesses some setting, a character that is more than just a name or a pronoun  - and a problem, as genocide creates the opportunity for lots of conflict last time I checked. This opening line is also the entire first paragraph. The next line and full paragraph being:

Nikolai Dmitriev hated being here.

Short sentences and short paragraphs speed up the pace, which is useful at the beginning of a story, as it pulls readers in before they can think about resisting to stop reading. Before they know it, they're at the end of chapter 1 and at the check-out line waiting to buy the book.

And the next line and paragraph:

And he loathed what he was about to do.

This line has an element of foreshadowing but also an element of preamble, but it's better than most preambling out there as it does reveal something about the character on an emotional level.

Then there's a short descriptive paragraph before the forward narrative continues onto page 2, where we start getting the standard abbreviations and acronyms that come with this type of thriller: U.S. Delta, SEALs, CIA, SOG, SVR and of course KGB.

First thing said:

"Always late for the party, Nikolai."

Verdict: Pass

Despite the fact that this novel quickly regresses into the genre's clich├ęs, the first sentence does attract attention and pull the reader in, especially so for people who like this genre. Those of you who are fanatical Thomas Hardy or Thomas Pynchon fans, perhaps not.

Rudy Globird

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