6 April 2019
“Evan waited for two of them to cross by the front gate. Then he seated the accelerator against the floor. The Ram shot forward, 240 horses and 420 pound-feet of torque powering more than two tons of Detroit Steel through the perimeter fence. The gate smashed down, crushing both men.”
A scene for the good ol’ boys among Hurwitz fans. Then there are highly choreographed battles between Evan (mostly alone) and a dozen or so bad guys with no redeeming features, so we won’t worry too much about their being crushed by a gate. He does his best to avoid or minimise collateral damage, but it’s going to be hard this time, when his target is the President of the United States.
Mind you, this isn’t political. President Bennett used to be the head of the department that set up the secret Orphan Program under which Evan was “recruited” (at 12) and trained as an assassin for the US. I am always reminded of the old Mission Impossible TV series with Peter Graves in the telephone box getting his orders from a nameless voice which said something like “Good luck with your mission, Jim, and as always, if you are caught, the Secretary will disavow any knowledge of your actions.” I’m sure other fans will remember the exact words.
Back to Evan Smoak. The president is trying to eradicate all the remaining Orphans, especially Evan, because the president was personally implicated in one of Evan’s earliest missions, revelations of which would not only wipe out his reputation and presidency but also land him in jail – or worse. So, of course, Evan is out to eradicate him first, and the set-up and action are fascinating. Look what he’s up against!
“The limo was designed to take a direct hit from a bazooka. Evan had a Dr Pepper Big Gulp. If need be, Cadillac One could serve as a self-sustained, fully functional emergency bunker. Bottles of the president’s blood were stored beneath the rear seats. At an instant’s notice, a designated backup oxygen supply fed the air-conditioning vents. Firefighting gear stowed in the trunk was accessible through a hatch behind the armrest. The gas tank self-sealed, preventing combustion. Encrypted comms gear maintained continuous contact with federal and state law enforcement.”
I have to say, Evan doesn’t have a limo like this, but he does have vehicles and safe-houses and weapons and special suppliers everywhere. Here he’s juggling three cases. This Orphan case, his Nowhere Man work, and as a brief sideline, attending to an unjust court ruling in a kind of vigilante action. He’s also accidentally acquired a few people he cares about and who care about him, a novel situation for a boy who grew up with only his recruiter, Jack, as a surrogate father figure, albeit one who trained him as a killer.
Caring about people makes him vulnerable in ways he hasn’t been in the past, but it does allow us to enjoy him as a man, at least now and then. And it helps him understand the vulnerability of the people who call the Nowhere Man on his special Roam-Zone phone. That has a secret number to be used only by someone who has been given it by the last desperate person he helped.
His tangled web gets more and more criss-crossed when the Roam-Zone rings during a battle, or when the various deadlines for his activities start conflicting. I quite liked his exasperation in this scene.
“Evan . . . sat in the rear of the dark auditorium as the PowerPoint continued, urged glacially onward by a matronly headmistress who seemed intent on reading every last bullet point.
Evan had once sat a sniper post in a tree in Sierra Leone for fifteen hours without moving. He’d lain in wait beneath a bridge in Kirkuk, sipping from a CamelBak, eating protein bars, and pissing on the same spot on the wall for three days. But this? This was actually going to kill him.”
We don’t call it Death by PowerPoint for nothing! He flies around the world on his cases, occasionally getting “home” to his fortress-like flat in a building where Mia and son Peter live, two people he’s come to care for.
No time for that! Trevon is an anxious young man, “high-functioning”, he says, who is depending on the Nowhere Man for help. Trevon’s mama raised him with rules, and he always obeys the rules. Trevon was kidnapped and threatened by really nasty dudes, and now he’s all alone with a bad case of the Scaredy-Bugs, trying hard to be brave. Evan has no choice but to make good on his promise to help, all while carrying out his personal assignment.
I am fascinated by the tech that Hurwitz describes, the fingerprint transfers, the overall cleverness. Again, it’s over the top but compelling stuff. How about finding the image of the shooter reflected in the pupil of the eye in the photo the shooter took of the victim? Good stuff.
I often skim the bloody bits, but sometimes I read every step to visualise the action. It is completely unbelievable, but I’ve got to say, Hurwitz makes it sound almost believable. Hanging on to roof flashing by a fingernail, scrabbling for a foothold while sliding down something, all while ducking machine gunfire. Weapons enthusiasts will be checking every code number for errors, I'm sure, but they mean nothing to me.
Full on action, the stuff of cinema blockbusters, and this is one that the fans will love. For that, I give it four stars, although the blood and guts is getting too much for me now.