Graham Brown's debut novel Black Rain: A Thriller
is a highly enjoyable thriller in the vein of James Rollins' Amazonia
and Douglas Preston's The Codex
. Fans of either of these two authors or the likes of Lincoln Child or Patrick Lee would enjoy its tale of survival against the odds in the deepest reaches of the Amazon.
For his follow-up, Black Sun, Graham Brown continues the story he established in Black Rain, picking up events a few months after the conclusion of that book. Danielle Laidlaw & Arnold Moore of the NRI, Professor McCarter and the enigmatic mercenary Hawker all return, but in terms of both plot and scale Black Sun differs quite considerably from its predecessor.
Black Rain was essentially a tale of survival against the elements, whereas Black Sun paints a picture with a far larger canvas. Whilst Black Rain focused on a comparatively small group of people trying to survive various threats in a single location, Black Sun expands the story out to take in potentially world changing events and locations as diverse as the Arctic Circle, Central Africa, Hong Kong, Nevada and Central Mexico. Along the way the cast also expands to include the President of the USA, the head of the CIA, a crazed Chinese oligarch and various Russian Spies.
As a result Black Sun is a far less focused affair than Black Rain. That's not to say that its a worse book than its predecessor; just that they are different and if you go in wanting a rehash of the first adventure you might well be disappointed. If however, you go in with an open mind then you'll find a globetrotting adventure that is every bit as enjoyable as Graham Brown's first novel and provides a mostly satisfying conclusion to the adventures of Laidlaw, Hawker, et al.
Brown has even managed to improve some aspects of his writing since his debut. In my review of Black Rain I noted that the handling of the exposition was pretty clunky at times. Whilst Black Sun includes just as much 'factual' information it feels better integrated into the narrative and doesn't disrupt the flow so much.
On the downside the plot of Black Sun doesn't work quite as well as Black Rain's did. The lack of focus is partly to blame here, with too many subplots struggling for prominence and as result none of them quite grab the reader as much as they should. Equally some of those subplots are less than compelling, with Kang, the psychotic Chinese oligarch, pursuit of the Laidlaw, Hawker and McCarter the least well conceived and executed. It almost feels as if Brown was worried that the book's central quest didn't involve enough jeopardy and tacked on the threat from Kang, a character straight out of a weaker James Bong movie, in an attempt to up the ante with the result that he and his machinations feel underdeveloped and out of place. It would have been far better in my opinion to beef up the threat posed by the Russians and dump Kang and his henchmen entirely.
These flaws apart however, Black Sun remains an exciting techno-thriller that provides a satisfying conclusion to what could best be described as the first 'NRI Adventure'. Hopefully Brown will bring Laidlaw, Hawker and Moore back for more adventure in the not distant future. I for one, will be there when he does.