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Thursday, November 5, 2009

Reading List: Term Limits

Flynn, Vince. Term Limits. New York: Pocket Books, 1997. ISBN 978-0-671-02318-8.
This was the author's first novel, which he initially self-published and marketed through bookshops in his native Minnesota after failing to place it with any of the major New York publishers. There have to be a lot of editors (What's the collective noun for a bunch of editors? A rejection slip of editors? A red pencil of editors?) who wrote the dozens of rejection letters he received, as Flynn's books now routinely make the New York Times bestseller list and have sold more than ten million copies worldwide. Unlike many writers who take a number of books, published or unpublished, to master their craft (Jerry Pournelle counsels aspiring writers to expect to throw away their first million words), Flynn showed himself to be a grandmaster at the art of the thriller in his very first outing. In fact, I found this book to be even more of a compulsive page-turner than the subsequent Mitch Rapp novels (but that's to be expected, since as the series progresses there's more character development and scene-setting)—the trade paperback edition is 612 pages long and I finished it in four days.

The story takes place in the same world as the Mitch Rapp (warning—the article at this link contains minor spoilers) series, and introduces many of the characters of those books such as Thomas Stansfield, Irene Kennedy, Jack Warch, Scott Coleman, and Congressman Michael O'Rourke, but Rapp makes no appearance in it. The premise is simple: a group of retired Special Forces operatives who have spent their careers making foreign enemies of their country pay for their misdeeds concludes that the most pernicious enemies of the republic are the venal politicians spending the country into bankruptcy and ignoring the threats to its existence and decides to take, shall we say, direct action, much along the lines of Unintended Consequences (December 2003), but as a pure thriller without the political baggage of that novel.

Flynn's attention to detail is evident in this first novel, although there are a few lapses. This is to be expected, as his “brain trust” of fan/insiders had yet to discover his work and lend their expertise to vetting the gnarly details. For example, on p. 552, a KH-11 satellite is said to be “on station” and remains so for an extended period. KH-11s are in low Earth orbit, and cannot be on station anywhere. And they're operated by the National Reconnaissance Office, not the National Security Administration. Flynn seems to be very fond of the word “transponder”, and uses it in contexts where it's clear a receiver is intended. These and other minor goofs detract in no way from the story, which grips you and doesn't let go until the last page. Although this book is not at all a prerequisite to enjoying the Mitch Rapp series, in retrospect I wish I'd read it before Transfer of Power (April 2009) to better appreciate the history which formed the relationships among the secondary characters.

Posted at November 5, 2009 23:35