J.B.B. Winner,
The Strand Prophecy
(Missile Rider, 2007)

First, let me just come right out and say I freakin' loved The Strand Prophecy. Any fan of science fiction and/or superheroes in general cannot help but stand up and applaud the debut of Strand, who is "just a man -- and something more." Possessing no supernatural abilities of his own as the human Steve Cutter, Strand is the self-made product of cutting-edge technology. His fervent desire to protect the innocent can be traced back to the guilt he feels for a terrible personal tragedy and his determination to protect his niece Anna, the only family he has left in the world.

Now she -- and every other person on the planet -- is in danger, and only he knows it. That makes him the perfect -- albeit reluctant -- man for the job of getting the word out and helping mankind prepare for a future no one else sees coming. Evolution, Strand has discovered, comes in sudden jolts rather than proceeding gradually over millions of years, and a new age is about to smack Earth right across the chops, causing amazing and unpredictable physical changes in human beings and potentially creating animal monsters that could threaten man's dominance if not his very existence on the planet. If no one in a position of power will take his warnings seriously, Strand is more than prepared -- thanks to his lifelong commitment to research and technological development -- to defend the innocent all by himself.

So how cool is Strand? With the strand technology he has developed, he is able to essentially rewire his own brain, raising cognitive functions to unheard of levels and unleashing the unprecedented power of the human mind. This has allowed him to develop technologies only dreamed of in the past, such as the exoskeletons that give him the ability to perform feats of superhuman strength and endurance, the laser technology that allows him to read and analyze just about anything in a matter of seconds and the hordes of advanced, futuristic robots now at his disposal. Strand cuts quite a figure with his exoskeleton, cape, faceplate and visor, revealing nothing of his features (in an attempt to keep his real identity a secret) apart from the blue laser lights of his eyes. He also has a special lair in the form of a gigantic, ocean-bound research vessel, develops the ability to talk to a howler monkey and -- perhaps most impressive of all -- his super vehicle of choice is a customized Tomahawk missile (which is why they call him "the missile rider").

How cool is the novel? Well, it starts out with a shootout at the White House and ends with a thrilling, heart-pumping engagement on the Florida shoreline. In between, you have all sorts of incredible animal -- and human -- mutations manifesting themselves, increasingly elaborate and public appearances by Strand to get the word out to everyone -- with or without the help of the American president, strand-enabled medical miracles, interspecies communication, covert military operations, deceit and cover-up at the highest level of government, the horrifying threat of such giant sea creatures as beasts with crocodile bodies and T-Rex heads, and so much more. The last couple of chapters represent a true crescendo of the action, which had me feverishly flipping pages like crazy to find out what would happen in the end.

Adult science-fiction fans should certainly enjoy the nonstop action, but The Strand Prophecy should also appeal strongly to young-adult readers. You really get the best of both worlds here. This is due in part to the novel's distinctive blending of elements of the graphic novel alongside the story itself -- at the beginning and end of the book you will find a series of full-page panels bringing the book's characters to vivid life, while each chapter also features its own little introductory illustration. Rob Pryor is an incredible artist, and his contributions really add something grand and important to the story he is illustrating. Just take a look at the book's cover -- that is a work of art in and of itself. The strongest bridge between young-adult and adult audiences, though, has to be represented by the author. J.B.B. Winner is not a person, you see. It's more of a pen name, with the three initials referring to the book's three authors: a father (Jeff) and his 11-year-old identical twin daughters (Brittany and Brianna). This unusual collaboration of two generations really helps make The Strand Prophecy a remarkably appealing and exciting read for superhero/science fiction fans of basically all ages.

So basically, as you can probably tell, The Strand Prophecy made for one of the most exciting books I've come across in some time. And it's only just the beginning, as this is projected to be a five-book series. I, for one, can't wait for book two.

review by
Daniel Jolley

16 June 2007

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