“Blades of Winter” by G.T. Almasi / Monday, September 24, 2012 / Reviewed by Clay Stafford

Today’s featured book is Blades of Winter by G.T. Almasi.

Move over James Bond. There’s a new girl in town, 19 and unstoppable.

Why Clay Stafford chose this book:

Today’s Book of the Day is non-stop action and fits solidly in the alternate history subgenre of science fiction. The first line was enough to hook me and also make me chuckle: “Nothing pisses me off more than being shot at while I’m eating.” Half action story, half comic book tale this book reveals an alternate U.S. history set in our time, but with changes, such when we kicked Castro out of Cuba and made it a state. Don’t worry that the history is not matching our own. You’ll get history lessons along the way clarifying why things are as they are.

The story is set in the world that goes on without our knowledge (much like our real spy world). We go along happily in our little lives; these people are working behind the scenes so we can do just that. “Shadowstorm” is a covert war being fought by agents of the four super-powers of this novelistic world (set nearly identical to our own, but not quite and with not quite the same history of events). The story’s protagonist is a nineteen year old modified super woman with every imaginable gadget and prosthetic limb abilities you can imagine. Professionally, she is following in her father’s footsteps and in this book’s assignment she literally follows where he went before he disappeared. The story question becomes, “Will she find her father who appears to still be alive.” Between her personality and her equipment, she is a mythic spy and an invincible soldier. Her Eyes-Up Display tells her micro-second to micro-second everything about her inner body functioning and exterior world happenings so she can adjust or alter for maximum kill power. Emotions, if needed, are available from a hormone injection she self-administers simply by a quick command. This allows her to be collected in all situations. Like when she is hanging on the back of a car that goes down a set of stairs. While I would be dying of fear, she remarks, “This maniac is a really lousy driver!” Or when she’s chasing a bad guy? “It’s like cowboys and Indians. I let out a war whoop and pound up the stairway.” Realistic? Not really. Fun? Yes. Laugh out loud because some of the character’s lines completely catch me off-guard? You bet. For those seeking more realistic spy fiction, this might be a little too James Bond for them. No matter what situation the main character finds herself in, she seems to have some sort of gadget to solve the problem. You can complain about “writer’s convenience,” but with stories such as this, you either accept it or you don’t.

The action is nonstop. As I read it, I was reminded in style, not content, of some of my son’s video games: This happens, this choice is made, new enemies appear, clear them out, fight several of these, defeat the Boss, the go to the next level. It has that same kind of feel. The storytelling is a bit like the movie “The Matrix.” Remember when the bullets start flying around in slow motion? That’s what it’s like here. Except instead of just the slow motion bullets, we get the inner commentary from the main character about what is happening, info we need to know, or how certain technology works that the main character throws into motion. I was intrigued at how well these interjections worked without really slowing the forward motion of any of the scenes. Normally if a character jumped off the Eiffel Tower after a villain with no parachute, there would be a sense of panic. Not with this girl. She has enough time as she goes over the rail to turn around and shoot a V for Victory sign at the tourists in case any of them happen to have their cameras focused on that spot at that particular time. After a while, you get used to this sort of thing and think nothing of it. That’s how the novel flows. You’re not going to find “literature” here. You’re going to read this (if you like this sort of thing) for the action, the imagination, the fun – all the reasons that some of us grew up hooked on pulp fiction, those old dusty books that I still have gently stacked on my bookshelves. Because the story is moving so fast and there is so much thrown at you at once, you almost miss the brutality of the violence. But it is there. And a great deal of it. In fact, that’s just about all there is. But even while things are falling apart or the end looks near, the main character is cool and calm throughout.

Younger readers would find an immediate hero in the same way that I thought I was “The Bionic Man,” except her covert operations are much more intense. When I say “younger,” I’m unfortunately not talking about preteens (who would have loved this book), but the language and violence are too intense for that age group, the legal drug taking and excessive alcohol use also not recommended. However, it is still a coming of age story that latter teens and sci-fi fans will enjoy.

This is the first book in the series. “Hammer of Angels,” the sequel, is already scheduled to be released at the first of next year. I”m looking forward to it.

From Amazon:

“In one of the most exciting debuts in years, G. T. Almasi has fused the intricate cat-and-mouse games of a John le Carré novel with the brash style of comic book superheroes to create a kick-ass alternate history that reimagines the Cold War as a clash of spies with biological, chemical, and technological enhancements.

Nineteen-year-old Alix Nico, a self-described “million-dollar murder machine,” is a rising star in ExOps, a covert-action agency that aggressively shields the United States from its three great enemies: the Soviet Union, Greater Germany, and the Nationalist Republic of China. Rather than risk another all-out war, the four superpowers have poured their resources into creating superspies known as Levels.

Alix is one of the hottest young American Levels. That’s no surprise: Her dad was America’s top Level before he was captured and killed eight years ago. But when an impulsive decision explodes—literally—in her face, Alix uncovers a conspiracy that pushes her to her limits and could upset the global balance of power forever.”

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Remember that these books are listed at a discount through Amazon. You also don’t have to purchase the version that is featured here. Many of these books are available in multiple formats: e–book, hardcover, softcover, and audio. Enjoy!

– Clay Stafford, Founder of Killer Nashville