Rise of the Gorgon

Rise of the Gorgon - Tanai Walker Secret operatives. Shadowy black-ops groups. Dark conspiracies. Strange super powers. Cheesy zombies(!). Impossible lesbian love. An explosive combination! Loved it! Detailed review below.

Speculative fiction themes are so rare in lesfic novels that I almost invariably jump on every new release. Even rarer is spec-fic done well, so like Frank, I'm always prepared to be disappointed. But thankfully not this time!

Elle Pharell, an award winning, left-wing Internet journalist wrote a touching series on an unemployed ex-military suffering from PTSD. After doing the talk show rounds together during his 15-minute of fame, Elle helps the veteran get back on his own feet. But one day he shows up at Elle's office all riled up, claiming to remember some horrific scenes from his past--memories of things that never officially happened. Unable to stop the onslaught of these scenes in his head, the veteran chooses to end it all in front of Elle. Stunned and wracked with guilt, Elle flies to the other side of the world to find out if there is any truth to Rob's 'visions'.

That was an explosive and intriguing start. What follows then is an imaginative and thrilling tale of conspiracies, black-ops, spies, and would ya believe, zombies! Current issues (the proliferation of left/right wing media, conspiracy theorists, Middle East conflicts, evil private 'security firms') are deftly combined with futuristic elements like weaponized humans, memory erasure, and paranormal elements like psychic empathy and telekinesis.

The best thing about the book is the unpredictable plot--up to the very last line. While it isn't bulletproof (The newsperson in Anne would never have let Elle charge alone into the desert on a personal quest and not take advantage of the huge possibilities of a 'story' there--whether there was anything to it or not--the investigation would have been fully documented ala reality tv thing for the heck of it :) And that would have meant an accompanying photographer and a satellite phone, at the least. And speaking of phones, I'd love to have Elle's amazing phone. It never runs out of juice and has signal everywhere! Also, if Elle was trying to prove or disprove Rob's memories, she would have been religiously documenting her progress and investigation, and getting the word out to Anne as soon as she got proof, but no, she acted like it was just a personal quest and documenting it seemed like just an afterthought--something against a reporter's very nature. Also the zombies bit was so cliche it almost read like a parody. ) Fortunately, these are just minor quibbles. it is just believable enough to not cause too many eyerolls. Things start to get really interesting once the plot veers into unknown territory, as in once we get past the biochem-weapons-testing-on-natives trope. Much of the appeal has to do with Cass and Elle's impossible situation--one torn between love and duty, the other between survival and the truth. Cass' journey is the more dramatic of the two central conflicts, but alas, this is also where the book falters. Her transformation lacks the deep emotional exploration that it warrants. For someone raised to kill, her 'turning' was too easy, too quick. I think this was probably a conscious decision of the author to keep the book length down or the pacing fast. Still, it could have added so much more depth to the character.

Despite the minor faults, this is still a very enjoyable thriller. Something along the vein of 'The Elite Operatives' but darker. The ending hints of or rather, requires a sequel. No need to wait for that though, since the main story arc is complete.

4.85 stars

ARC copy received from Netgalley