Greg Rucka,
Patriot Acts
(Bantam, 2007)

Patriot Acts picks up minutes after the dramatic conclusion to the previous installment, Critical Space, in which Atticus Kodiak was hired as a bodyguard by international assassin Alena Cizkova (a.k.a. Drama). Alena had just killed Oxford, the assassin who was hired to kill her. Meanwhile, Atticus was completing the mental/emotional transformation that mirrored his physical transformation.

The action picks up as Atticus, Alena and their friend Natalie Trent head to a safe house. From this point on, anything goes, so throw any expectations or preconceived notions about what could happen out the window. Rucka is playing for keeps in this (possibly final) installment.

This is the sixth time Rucka has penned Atticus Kodiak, now a bodyguard turned fugitive. And Rucka brings back some familiar faces, but not in a way that you would expect. And anyone that might be happy that Rucka has brought back some of the regular supporting characters should think twice. While the previous installments have shown subtle character changes and developments, Patriot Acts condenses this process, acting as an intense crucible for Atticus Kodiak and three others. (Sorry, if I say their names, it will definitely spoil the story.)

Despite Rucka's meticulous attention to fleshing out these well-rounded and complex characters, he is downright cruel and abusive to his creations. And thank goodness for that, as the result is a gripping, suspenseful story about a group of characters that are anything but stagnant. Enter this book knowing that change isn't on the horizon; instead, change knocks down the door and smacks these characters right upside their heads. None of these characters are the same at the end of the book as they were at the beginning. And again, thank goodness for that, because love it or hate it, those changes make for one hell of a story.

Patriot Acts is a compelling story that explores the grey areas of morality in a contradictive state when dedication, friendship, honor, commitment and sacrifice are required. And Rucka's prose style is as addictive as ever. He certainly knows how to write an action-packed thriller that brings anticipation (and maybe even a bit of anxiety) with each page turned. Rucka pulls a balancing act of magnificent proportion in his selective dissemination of information. In some scenarios, he's an abridged Tom Clancy, describing tools of the trade in a descriptive-yet-succinct manner, or offering clues for the reader to see how a particular development may pan out. Yet in key moments that are pivotal to the story, Rucka intentionally keeps the reader in the dark, right up until that wonderfully dramatic and shocking moment, leaving us with a difficult decision: scratch our heads in wonderment or turn the page? Oh, we know the answer to that one, don't we?

review by
C. Nathan Coyle

5 January 2008

what's new