Saturday, May 19, 2012

The Informationist by Taylor Stevens

I’m getting tired of Texans being portrayed as illiterate gun freaks or morally bankrupt oil bazillionaires in what seems like every other book or movie. First off, Texas is a fine state with fine people. Second, not all hunting enthusiasts are illiterates or freaks! And finally, I’ve known a few oil magnates that were way nicer than some arrogant pseudointellectuals.

So, now that I’ve got that off my chest, I’ll tell you about The Informationist by Taylor Stevens which is full of such clichés, but a pretty damn good thriller otherwise.

Michel Munroe, the main character in the book, was raised in Cameroon (west coast of Central Africa) and became a gun-and-drug runner at the age of 14. Author Stevens interestingly wrote Michael as a rather atypical hero with tons of flaws, like a not fully explained compulsion to kill people in particularly sadistic and gory ways. And yet I can see Michael becoming a serialized character in many future "Michel Munroe" books. Although it is fairly standard that the protagonist of a thriller be uncannily skilled, Michael is so much stronger, faster, smarter, and a better shot than everyone else in the book, that it requires a major chasm leap of faith by the reader.

Oh, and did I mention that Michael is a woman? Of course she is also thin, beautiful and heterosexual.

(Author Tyler Stevens - this is her debut book)

But back to the story--Michael is hired to find the daughter, Emily, of a wealthy Texas couple who was last seen in Central Africa. Because Michael has a lot of history and contacts in Central Africa, and is so much smarter than all the other inept consultants who have been unsuccessfully searching for Emily for four years, she figures the whole thing out fairly quickly. Throw in lots of guns and dazzling escapes and a couple of tough and hunky guys who think they have to protect Michael, but actually end up kowtowing to her, and you’ve got some thrills and a little emotional traction – very little.

What made The Informationist interesting and fun was the “Indiana Jones” pace and the global hopscotching that Michael and “her men” do while searching for clues about Emily’s disappearance. The descriptions of the cultures and cities in Central Africa are especially rich. Of course, because Michael speaks 22 languages (seriously), she manages to blend in, get official papers and anything else she wants with illogical ease, and we take that leap with her because it is fun.

The ending you saw coming comes, and the ending you didn’t see coming comes, and we’re set up for a sequel. The writing is decent although the characters are fairly shallow and the story is full of holes, but you hang on for the ride because there’s a lot of colorful action, and because Michael is the hard-ass you always wanted to be, regardless of your gender!

The Informationist is better than the average thriller and you can get your Laua Croft/Lisbeth Salander on, so check it out. 

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