Jim Cline,
A Small Percentage
(Timberwolf, 1997)

When a small, elderly man assassinates the President of the United States in Dallas, it is only the beginning of a series of events that heralds the descent of the world into hell in the proverbial handbasket. Government officials, Congressmen, police, FBI agents and others find themselves targets of mysterious assassins and terrorists who strike without warning and leave only mutilated corpses behind. But it is not only the United States that is suddenly under attack, but also Russia and China. Who could have orchestrated such a massive terrorist movement?

The Harmaty are a cat-like race from deep space. Fighting a war with their Bexxus enemies, they find themselves in need of supplies, including food and mineral resources. And Earth, populated by a race that is so obviously the offspring of the hated Bexxus, is just perfect for their needs. Obey, their leader announces to the stunned people of Earth, and we will take only a small percentage of your resources. Disobey and we will still take what we need, but we'll destroy you in the process.

And then a ship carrying a small group of Bexxus soldiers lands in South America. Rescued by an American soldier, they promise to aid the people of Earth in ridding themselves of the hated Harmaty oppressors. But for some people, there is the nagging question: Did things just get better or worse?

A Small Percentage could be described as Independence Day meets Top Gun meets The Hunt for Red October meets The X-Files. A movie analogy is actually very apt, as the novel has a very cinematic feel to it. Scene changes are announced by headings at the beginning of each scene which tell the reader time and place. It is almost as if the author had a movie adaptation in mind when he wrote it.

Of course, the other way of looking at it is that this is a lazy way of getting out of writing a certain amount of exposition.

A Small Percentage is a good book, but it has a lot of flaws. For one thing, in the military action sequences, it is entirely too technical. Few readers actually care what all the fancy doo-dads in a fighter jet's cockpit are called and description of them would have served better than acronyms that were defined in the next phrase of the sentence. Secondly, the set-up for the invasion of the Harmaty dragged on much too long. Two or three episodes demonstrating their brutality would have sufficed, rather than the gore-fest to which the reader is treated. The cinematic scene changes mentioned above actually distract in spots; the author would have been better served to describe the new setting or to rely on the reader's memory rather than putting in the headings. I found reading this book rather frustrating because as good as it is, it could have been so much better.

Flaws notwithstanding, A Small Percentage is action-packed and hard to put down. It is a very entertaining book as it is, but with a good, stiff editing (and about 200 fewer pages), it would be exceptional.

[ by Laurie Thayer ]

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