This, along with any other reviews I do, will be atypical due to the fact that I find most reviews to be problematic. A formal literary critique is meaningless to most media consumers, while a plot and content summary ruins enjoyment of the media without actually conveying a true picture of the work. Moreover, media preferences are based so much on individual tastes that a worthwhile endorsement only comes when you know why someone liked or disliked something and by having enough information and experience to know how your tastes line up with theirs. That said, I can recommend Foreign Agent without reservation whether you’re a thriller novel fan or new to the genre.
I had yet to read a Brad Thor novel and had not read anything in the genre for quite some time. Thor has a style synonymous with pulp fiction: simple and plain. Not in a negative fashion, mind you. He manages to be simple without being simplistic. There is a refreshing lack of density which sometimes bogs down others in the thriller genre like Clancy, Crichton, Grisham, etc. Personally, I would have liked a little more depth to the political machinations and DC scenes, but for Thor the focus is on the action in the field and what it takes to uncover the plots and threats aimed at the United States. For instance, he opens the book with a gut punch you’re going to see coming but is no less impactful. It is heart-wrenching and horrific, made all the more so if you know the obvious truth of how monstrous ISIS really is and what barbaric acts they perpetrate. Its the opening scene from Jaws. You know exactly what’s going to happen to that swimmer, its absolutely no surprise, but it’s no less terrifying.
In a sense, Foreign Agent reads like the best of classic television. Shows which were hits in their era and still stand the test of time today are works which manage to follow a formula without being formulaic. I’m sad to say, going back on Netflix to watch 80’s classics like MacGyver or The A-Team was a real letdown as they were far too formulaic and became predictable, boring, and downright cheesy. Magnum PI, on the other hand, follows a formula with each episode but uses it as a template only and thus manages to stay fresh and interesting and is still entertaining. Likewise, Foreign Agent takes the classic “who done it?” spy thriller, hits many of the expected notes, yet twists them to focus more on “how done it?” and “why done it?” to keep the reader interested and the action moving.
But as way of warning to the reader, be prepared to be terrified. Upon finishing, you will be wondering how to most economically stock your Armageddon bunker and debating where on the scale of Red Dawn to Dr Strangelove we’re heading towards. Foreign Agent comes to a satisfactory conclusion in large part because Thor envisions a President who actually cares about the US, our interests, our allies, and standing up to evil world powers who will run amok without our vigilance. Within the context of his fictional world, Brad Thor shines reveals the non-fiction proxy wars happening this very minute and the danger they pose to the world at large and America in particular. It has been said repeatedly that in the years leading up to 9/11, radical Islam was at war with the United States but we were not at war with them. Likewise, the bad actors of the world have been engaged in new Cold Wars with the US for years now and we appear to be ignoring this new reality. Considering the damage done by a relatively small, state-less organization like Al Qaeda, how much more will we suffer if we continue to ignore the threats and ill-intent of militaristic nations diametrically opposed to the US in both interests and principles?