Paulo J. Reyes,
(Virtual World, 2005)

Sledgehammer has all the ingredients of a great read. It is bang up to date. The topic is hot. Readers cannot get enough rollercoaster thriller novels. The author, Paulo J. Reyes, is an expert in his field and appears to have a genuine love of his subject.

Unfortunately, the book appears to lack a decisive editor.

A thrilling tale is lost in a sea of cliches from the very beginning. From the opening paragraph of the preface, the author nails his colours to the mast and we know we are in for a patriotic "tour de force." The world revolves around the United States of America. Maybe in real life it does, but we do not need it so obviously delineated in print.

Again we are up against terrorism and, another staple of modern thriller fiction, a widowed hero and cute kid.

I really looked forward to this book. The scenario of bio-terrorism is so real today we can taste it, and as Alfred Hitchcock once wrote about the essence of a thriller -- to bring tension into the story we need to know the threat is there.

Reyes is an MD, but unfortunately he assumes his readers have similar qualifications. The book is strewn with medical terms; sometimes they are explained, other times not. In addition, he seems to be in the business of coining new words, like "stomachache."

The book charges along and I believe that anyone who can avoid being distracted by the above-mentioned faults will enjoy the story. It will make you think -- long and hard. It may even give you nightmares about possible scenarios we might face in the future. For that content, I would give it a cautious recommendation. I could easily see this as the basis of a TV movie in the not-too-distant future.

by Nicky Rossiter
8 July 2006

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