Curiously nerdy posts.
It’s rainy, I’ve been working my butt off this week, and my eye hurts.
But most of that is over now. So I’m going to sit down and talk about the latest book I read.
The book in question? The Last Man, by Vince Flynn.
In my social circles, I’m often referred to as a sci-fi/fantasy guy. If someone I know wants to read something new in those genres, more often than not they’ll end up asking me for a suggestion. But I don’t think there’s an avid reader alive that just enjoys one or two genres exclusively. And I am no different.
As a matter of fact, I’ve always loved spy thrillers. I enjoy Ian Fleming’s original James Bond novels. I’m also a huge fan of Greg Rucka’s work. It’s a genre that, although I haven’t read nearly as many as science fiction or certainly fantasy, I can readily say that I’ve at least enjoyed every single book I’ve read.
There’s just something about them that’s awesome to me. Maybe it’s that the stakes in each can be so worldwide and catastrophic, or so personal and incisive that it makes you squirm. Or that we’re often treated to a window of a hard, thankless life that most of us could never imagine being a part of. Oh, heck. Maybe it’s just that they’re always superbly paced, and simple to read and follow, with a dash of mystery often thrown in.
Regardless, I love them. So when I kept hearing a certain Vince Flynn’s name come up in the genre, I decided to give him a try at the airport. I had a flight from Atlanta to Denver, and wanted a new spy thriller to read. It should be noted before I begin, by the way, that this is actually the last book in his Mitch Rapp character series, so if this book sounds interesting to you, I’d suggest starting with the first book, Kill Shot. I honestly don’t mind going back and reading from the start after reading this book, but I know I’m weird like that.
Anyhow, on to the review!
The blurb reads like this:
An invaluable CIA asset has gone missing, and with him, secrets that in the wrong hands could prove disastrous. The only question is: Can Mitch Rapp find him first?
Joe Rickman, head of CIA clandestine operations in Afghanistan, has been kidnapped and his four bodyguards executed in cold blood. But Mitch Rapp’s experience and nose for the truth make him wonder if something even more sinister isn’t afoot. Irene Kennedy, director of the CIA, has dispatched him to Afghanistan to find Rickman at all costs.
Rapp, however, isn’t the only one looking for Rickman. The FBI is too, and it quickly becomes apparent that they’re less concerned with finding Rickman than placing the blame on Rapp.
With CIA operations in crisis, Rapp must be as ruthless and deceitful as his enemies if he has any hope of finding Rickman and completing his mission. But with elements within his own government working against both him and American interests, will Rapp be stopped dead before he can succeed?
Mitch Rapp. The main character of this novel is a departure from the normal spy protagonist that I usually see. He’s not smooth, subtle, or particularly charismatic. What he is, is a badass who doesn’t care about anything or anyone, beyond getting his job done. He wouldn’t really seem out of place in an 80s action movie, honestly. He’s not afraid to threaten to put a bullet in your head if you don’t shut up and get out of his way. Also, he’s not afraid to actually make good on that threat.
I got a rather stirring introduction to the character in the third chapter, when a character set up to be some clever villain gets knocked down and threatened by Rapp, who tells him that he is a complete POS and that he will personally hunt him down and shoot him if he crosses him in any way. I couldn’t help but picture him as Lee Marvin the whole time, for some reason.
He’s a man’s man, and completely different from most characters I’ve seen in this kind of book. That’s a good thing… mostly.
The POV shifts. It’s not unusual to get a novel where the POV changes from chapter to chapter. That’s normal. Heck, it’s almost expected.
But this book does something kind of crazy. It can switch POVs from paragraph to paragraph. If Flynn wants you to know what the character opposite the main POV of that chapter is thinking, then by god, he’ll just move you over inside their head instead.
That sounds like it could get awfully confusing in a hurry, and terribly sloppy (in fact, I kept waiting for it to happen), but it never does. It’s a really ballsy thing to do, and if anything, this book proved to me that that’s just another rule of novel writing that you can easily break and get away with. If you plan it well enough, anyway.
The action scenes. The action scenes in this book are phenomenal. You can easily picture every little detail in your head, and despite the attitude of the main character, it’s actually sort of realistic. If you and four buddies are faced off with 20+ men armed with guns trying to kill you, I don’t care if you’re Ah-nuld and Stallone, and every other character from The Expendables put together. You’re going to die if you don’t get backup.
The action also never happens unless it makes sense within the context of the story, and isn’t even what really resolves the plot. I greatly enjoyed that fact.
The FBI subplot. I get the point of why it was there. Flynn wanted to show that there were enemies of the CIA in Washington, and that the plot against the good guys had teeth on both shores.
But really, it never really was allowed to become a viable threat. The FBI agent got owned every single time he tried to do something, and is completely treated as an afterthought once the main plot is resolved. I’m not saying it shouldn’t have been there, but it was never really taken seriously, for some reason.
Mitch Rapp. What? How is this even possible? How can the main character both be a positive and a negative?
So glad you asked. It’s pretty simple. He’s a Gary Stu. And if there’s one thing that annoys me in any kind of entertainment, it’s a Gary Stu, or his more famous wife, Mary Sue.
How is he a Gary Stu? It’s a pretty straightforward case, honestly. He’s a badass, yes. But everyone knows he is a badass. They will go out of their way to mention that he is a badass every time his name comes up, almost like we forgot it from the last time they told us. We’re told over and over again that he is the baddest man you could ever meet, and that he will find you, and he will kill you. The bad guys fear him. The good guys fear him. He makes perfect shots with his gun every single time…. headshots, too. The one female member of his team mentions in an inner thought that she considers him attractive, and wouldn’t mind getting to know him better. In some ways, if James Bond (the novel version, anyway) were real, he’d almost be more realistic than Mitch Rapp.
And while he does encounter a certain amount of peril, it’s not like he’s ever really in danger of dying, or failing his mission. That sort of comes with the territory when the book series is named after him, I guess.
But regardless, he’s pretty much the most infallible character I’ve read since Dirk Pitt from Clive Cussler’s early novels. Don’t get me wrong, I love those books. But still.
The verdict: I really liked this book. It’s not a classic, by any stretch, but for a fun brisk read on a plane, I couldn’t have done much better. Regardless, I give it ***. By my own standard, that basically means “worth the read, but I wouldn’t bother reading it more than once.” That’s perfectly accurate. It’s a good book, but once you know the plot twists, there’s no real point in revisiting it.
Nonetheless, I do plan on going back and reading these books from the beginning at some point. I’m just bummed that the guy who wrote it is no longer with us.
RIP, Mr. Flynn. We lost you too soon.
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