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Boys with Toys versus Monsters = win
on 6 April 2013
The idea of an officially sanctioned government special team taking on the supernatural would have been an original one a few years ago, but since then we've had similar themes in Charlie Stross' Laundry series and even The Initiative in Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
It's as if people don't want to feel the horror and fear of the unknown any more. They want to know that there are people whose job it is to fight back, who aren't just 'chosen ones' or dusty old Van Helsing clones, but the very best of the special forces, highly trained and decently equipped.
Seal Team 666 opens with an alternate version of the mission to kill Osama Bin Laden, portraying him as an actual demon, bringing the reader into both familiar territory as well as introducing the premise of the book. That evil is not just human, but must be fought. By Seals with big guns and magic daggers. Subsequent missions are convincingly portrayed as being plausible, grounded and real, but have the added risk of involving the supernatural.
The supernatural elements are also more interesting than the usual dull vampire and werewolves that are currently so overplayed, but are middle eastern djinn type elementals and east asian demonic entities, with interesting agendas that aren't just throwaway threats picked at random, but do work effectively as metaphors for real world issues such as people smuggling and exploitation.
As a high concept, 'military vs supernatural' is no longer unique, sure, but on its own that concept wouldn't work unless the writing and detail to back it up merged both technothriller and the occult elements convincingly, and where this book surprises is that it manages to do this flawlessly. It's well-written and the prose does its job without being overly bogged down in details. Unusually for a technothriller, the characters actually come to life and have unique and interesting personalities. And then, just when the reader stands a chance of becoming attached to them, they get horribly killed. Which means that the stakes are raised in an engaging way.
The only disappointment is that the ending comes all too soon, but doubtless there's more to come. I'm looking forward to it.