Cyclops Initiative by David Wellington is a fast moving
political thriller. It has a lot of the action of other thrillers
but also emphasizes the dilemma of veterans returning home.
This third book of the series is the best to date.
The author commented, "My contract is up. I am hoping
the series will be renewed since I enjoy writing about these
characters. They have a lot more stories to be told."
The plot has a Predator drone destroying a cargo ship carrying
radioactive materials at an inspection station in the Port
of New Orleans. After another take down of power grids in
California, intelligence strategists suspect a hacker somehow
managed to commandeer the drones to carry out the attacks.
Jim Chapel, a military intelligence officer, once a Special
Forces commando, disagrees with his bosses' conclusion that
the culprit is a brilliant hacker known as Angel, someone
he has worked closely with on past missions. She is the one
person he trusts more than anybody and will do anything to
clear her name. With the help of Angel, his ex-girlfriend
Julia, and some other veterans who also lost limbs in war,
Chapel tries to find who is behind this conspiracy that threatens
his life, his friends lives, and the security of the US.
Intertwined in this action packed story is the contrast between
characters. Readers of Wellington's previous books might remember
Angel as being confident, secure, with a take no prisoners
personality whose shoulder Jim could lean on. Yet, now on
the run and away from her computers she is portrayed as pitiful,
someone who does not know how to handle herself publicly.
Taken out of her element she is seen as a person with real
flaws and problems. Wellington wants the readers to wonder,
"Is she a healthy person who found her place in the world
or someone who needs help?"
Wellington also contrasts the two sides of a warrior with
the newly introduced character of Brent Wilkes versus Jim
Chapel. Wilkes has the philosophy of "find, fix, and
finish," where he never worries about killing, does not
talk about it, and just does it. On the other hand, Chapel
uses his wit instead of his sniper skills, only killing someone
as the last option.
There is also the intriguing contrast of past and present
generations. Angel represents the new generation who enjoys
interpersonal relationships while on the computer. A powerful
quote explains her philosophy; "I was never alone after
I got my computer. Any time, day or night, somebody was out
there, wanting to talk or share files or whatever." Yet,
Julia, Jim's girlfriend and Angel's older friend, cannot understand
Angel's lack of live communication, and how she is satisfied
in being a social hermit.
The story also points out the hypocrisy of politicians. Wellington
does a great job of creating an action packed story centered
around a major political conspiracy. He noted that the plot
incorporates his own feelings, "Many politicians don't
see their constituencies as human beings, but rather as numbers
on a page. I think they have disdain for the American people.
For career politicians, on both sides of the aisle, it's about
how much power they can gain and not about how to help people.
Politicians seem to forget that they are supposed to represent
The book has a shout out to all those in the armed forces
who fought in the different wars and lost limbs, being kept
alive because of medical technology advances. Wellington commented,
"I wanted to write about how those veterans who lost
limbs still have a meaningful life. I hoped I showed how they
cope differently, that their life will never be easy, and
now it is much more complicated. For me, the struggle they
are going through is just as heroic as anything they did on
the battlefield. We as Americans should understand that war
is so complicated, dangerous, and serious. It is not as depicted
in the video games that turn it into a cartoon."
The Cyclops Initiative is a captivating political
thriller that is a page-turner. It explores many different
issues through a riveting plot.