No Man’s Land by David Baldacci on the surface seems like a
science fiction story. But this thriller featuring US Army
criminal investigator John Puller has a very plausible theme
with a compelling and action-packed plot.
He always seems to give a shout out to the military. He noted,
“My dad was in the Navy, and I have a lot of friends
in the military and police. I think those in the military
and police are very special people, which is why I wrote this
book quote about Puller a former combat veteran and now a
CID investigator, sprinting ‘toward, not away from,
the violence.’ I have tremendous respect for them. It
is an incredibly difficult job under the best of circumstances
and far more complicated than people realize. We need to hold
these people up and encourage them to serve in these professions.”
The storyline has two men combating demons they experienced
thirty years ago. Seemingly unrelated, Baldacci does a great
job intertwining the two characters. Puller's mother disappeared
thirty years ago and now CID investigators are accusing his
father of possibly murdering her. Aided by his brother Robert,
an Air Force major, and Veronica Knox, who works for a shadowy
U.S. intelligence organization, Puller begins a journey that
will take him back into his own past, to find the truth about
his mother. Simultaneously, Paul Rogers begins his own journey
after getting paroled from jail. He was basically a guinea
pig in an experiment to make a “super soldier.”
His body was altered so that he wouldn’t fear physical
pain, his brain was changed so that he wouldn’t feel
guilt over killing, and he was changed to become a fighting
machine. Regretting being turned into a “monster,”
he seeks out the two people responsible for his plight to
make them pay for ruining his life.
Discussing the storyline Baldacci saw “The super soldier
theme is not all fiction, since they have worked on it for
a long time. A lot of what I spoke about in the book is something
they have been or are currently working on, including brain
implants, and making soldiers able to heal themselves on the
battlefield. I think one of their long-range goals is to make
our fighting force more effective. I know this sounds very
H. G. Wells, but it is the way the world works. I wanted to
attack this from the human side, and the dark side of it all.
At some point this has to be tested on real people. Their
goal is to make the soldier more efficient, more combat ready,
stronger, and with greater endurance. A lot of this can only
happen with technology. Is it a dark or sweet part? General
Robert E. Lee said. ‘It is well that war is so terrible
– otherwise we would grow too fond of it.’ We
don’t want to possibly change a person to being non-human.
I am not saying to stop the projects, but we must be skeptical
and ask the necessary questions about modifying soldiers.
We must be aware that technology and humanism sometimes collide.”
Beyond this riveting and heart-wrenching story Baldacci explores
many issues, including dementia, human experiments, and conspiracy
theories. He has a knack for having the reader hate some of
the characters in the beginning, only to root and care for
them by the ending.
Baldacci stated, “I think about how the brain defines
personality, who someone is, and how they react to others.
When modified, changed, and pierced by artificial means the
outcome is very scary. Putting something together that is
supposedly perfect is only in the eyes of the beholder. It’s
their definition of what is perfect. Let’s not forget
Hitler’s desire to create the perfect Aryan race. But
I also wrote in this book about how Puller’s father
is suffering from dementia, and he felt how he basically lost
him. It destroys people from within.”
No Man’s Land is an edge of your seat thriller.
Readers will be hooked from page one. Besides the tension
edged plot, the thought provoking themes will allow people
to question how far military experiments should go.