Pub Day Repost: The Asset by Shane Kuhn

The AssetThe Asset

by Shane Kuhn
ARC, 258 pg.
Simon & Schuster, 2016
Read: June 16 – 19, 2016

Like most of his business trips, the only sights he’d be taking in were those of Duty Free, Wok n’ Roll, Dunkin’ Donuts, and all the other apostrophic, postapocalyptic airport landmarks he vagabonded past countless times a year.

People often made envious remarks about his business travel, not realizing that the homogeneous scenery endemic to virtually every airport in the United States made on susceptible to what Kennedy half-jokingly called “Terminal Illness”–a chronic frequent traveler disease brought on by extreme isolation, fatigue-induced delirium, fast-food malnutrition, excessive consumption of bottom-shelf booze, and diminished social equilibrium. He likened it to extended space travel, but with inferior cuisine.

Unlike, say, Ryan Bingham, Kenney has a noble reason for spending so much time in airports. He flies all over the world — particularly the U.S. — training airport security officers (namely, the TSA). Sure, the TSA has their own training program, but airports will bring him in as a consultant to help beef things up. Thanks to a tragic loss years ago, Kennedy is one of the most invested security experts in the world — he’s more committed to airplane safety than most governments. To say he’s driven is quite the understatement.

At the moment, there’s a security bulletin going around with a warning of an immanent terrorist threat. A few people in the CIA, FBI, NSA, TSA are taking it seriously, but most figure it’s just another in a long line of boys who cried, “wolf.” Kennedy, of course, takes it more seriously than anyone, and is pretty frustrated that he’s so alone in this.

So when he’s approached by representatives of the intelligence community and given the opportunity to do something to stop this threat — not just consult, but act — he jumps in with both feet. And immediately finds himself in way above his head.

Kennedy and the team he joins are racing against the clock — not sure when someone might strike, and really only pretty sure that they will. But if the threats reported are anything close to reality, if this attack goes off, it’ll be worse than anything in history.

Kuhn’s an experienced thriller writer and he knows how to keep things tense and the plot moving. From the outset we know that the attack will take place 64 days from the time we first meet Kennedy. Each time you get to a new chapter and read, “Day X,” you feel the tension ratcheting up (like Lee Child’s 61 Hours in reverse). Kuhn keeps you turning pages as quickly as you can while ignoring the clock and the alarm that’s sure to go off in a couple of hours.

Because of the kind of book it is you that know that certain characters are going to turn out to be something they don’t seem to be, or that events aren’t going to be what they seem to be. But Kuhn pulls most of them off so that it’s unexpected — for example, a plot development that I spent 100 pages for took my by surprise when it actually happened. There is some violence here, but for the genre, it’s pretty tame — it’s not sanitized, it’s not toned-down — it’s just utilized when needed, nothing to excess.

Most of the characters were pretty much what you expect in a book like this — but that’s fine, those are why we read books like this. I don’t need every character to break the mold, I like certain types to be good examples of those types, and Kuhn has many of those running throughout these pages. If Nuri isn’t one of the best/most entertaining examples of she-nerd that you’ve come across lately, I’ll eat my hat. There are a couple of characters that aren’t from the typical thriller cast lists (see the musician, Love) are even better.

I don’t want to compare this too often to Kuhn’s John Lago books, but I have to a little. Those books are marked for their voice, their satire, their off-kilter protagonists. This protagonist is exactly what you expect he is, and is pretty typical for the genre, and the voice is pretty straight. But every now and then you get a little of Kuhn’s voice (always appropriate to character and the work, don’t get me wrong). Like when Kennedy and his team are trying to guess when and where the terrorists will attack, and we get the line, “Terrorists are basically psychotic public relations whores.” Followed by “The choice of 9/11 was basically branding, a tongue-in-cheek play on our emergency number, which makes the date more memorable.” A little snarky and astute, the kind of talk you get around a conference table while brainstorming. The analysis of holidays during this exchange made me laugh.

Basically, he knocked it out of the park. Even some of the twists I guess that we’re shocked when they were revealed nail-biting right up to the end. The Asset is a heck of a stand-alone thriller. If the publisher decides for more adventures of Kennedy, I’m in. I think I like Kuhn’s series better than this kind of thing, but man, this one hit the sweet spot. I hope it brings him a lot of success.

I received this book from a drawing on the author’s website. Mega-Thanks to Shane Kuhn and Simon & Schuster for the good read. As it was an ARC, there’s a chance that the quotations above might not be in the published version, I’ll try to confirm as soon as I can in a couple of weeks.

—–

4 Stars

The Asset by Shane Kuhn

The AssetThe Asset

by Shane Kuhn

ARC, 258 pg.
Simon & Schuster, 2016

Read: June 16 – 19, 2016

Like most of his business trips, the only sights he’d be taking in were those of Duty Free, Wok n’ Roll, Dunkin’ Donuts, and all the other apostrophic, postapocalyptic airport landmarks he vagabonded past countless times a year.

People often made envious remarks about his business travel, not realizing that the homogeneous scenery endemic to virtually every airport in the United States made on susceptible to what Kennedy half-jokingly called “Terminal Illness”–a chronic frequent traveler disease brought on by extreme isolation, fatigue-induced delirium, fast-food malnutrition, excessive consumption of bottom-shelf booze, and diminished social equilibrium. He likened it to extended space travel, but with inferior cuisine.

Unlike, say, Ryan Bingham, Kenney has a noble reason for spending so much time in airports. He flies all over the world — particularly the U.S. — training airport security officers (namely, the TSA). Sure, the TSA has their own training program, but airports will bring him in as a consultant to help beef things up. Thanks to a tragic loss years ago, Kennedy is one of the most invested security experts in the world — he’s more committed to airplane safety than most governments. To say he’s driven is quite the understatement.

At the moment, there’s a security bulletin going around with a warning of an immanent terrorist threat. A few people in the CIA, FBI, NSA, TSA are taking it seriously, but most figure it’s just another in a long line of boys who cried, “wolf.” Kennedy, of course, takes it more seriously than anyone, and is pretty frustrated that he’s so alone in this.

So when he’s approached by representatives of the intelligence community and given the opportunity to do something to stop this threat — not just consult, but act — he jumps in with both feet. And immediately finds himself in way above his head.

Kennedy and the team he joins are racing against the clock — not sure when someone might strike, and really only pretty sure that they will. But if the threats reported are anything close to reality, if this attack goes off, it’ll be worse than anything in history.

Kuhn’s an experienced thriller writer and he knows how to keep things tense and the plot moving. From the outset we know that the attack will take place 64 days from the time we first meet Kennedy. Each time you get to a new chapter and read, “Day X,” you feel the tension ratcheting up (like Lee Child’s 61 Hours in reverse). Kuhn keeps you turning pages as quickly as you can while ignoring the clock and the alarm that’s sure to go off in a couple of hours.

Because of the kind of book it is you that know that certain characters are going to turn out to be something they don’t seem to be, or that events aren’t going to be what they seem to be. But Kuhn pulls most of them off so that it’s unexpected — for example, a plot development that I spent 100 pages for took my by surprise when it actually happened. There is some violence here, but for the genre, it’s pretty tame — it’s not sanitized, it’s not toned-down — it’s just utilized when needed, nothing to excess.

Most of the characters were pretty much what you expect in a book like this — but that’s fine, those are why we read books like this. I don’t need every character to break the mold, I like certain types to be good examples of those types, and Kuhn has many of those running throughout these pages. If Nuri isn’t one of the best/most entertaining examples of she-nerd that you’ve come across lately, I’ll eat my hat. There are a couple of characters that aren’t from the typical thriller cast lists (see the musician, Love) are even better.

I don’t want to compare this too often to Kuhn’s John Lago books, but I have to a little. Those books are marked for their voice, their satire, their off-kilter protagonists. This protagonist is exactly what you expect he is, and is pretty typical for the genre, and the voice is pretty straight. But every now and then you get a little of Kuhn’s voice (always appropriate to character and the work, don’t get me wrong). Like when Kennedy and his team are trying to guess when and where the terrorists will attack, and we get the line, “Terrorists are basically psychotic public relations whores.” Followed by “The choice of 9/11 was basically branding, a tongue-in-cheek play on our emergency number, which makes the date more memorable.” A little snarky and astute, the kind of talk you get around a conference table while brainstorming. The analysis of holidays during this exchange made me laugh.

Basically, he knocked it out of the park. Even some of the twists I guess that we’re shocked when they were revealed nail-biting right up to the end. The Asset is a heck of a stand-alone thriller. If the publisher decides for more adventures of Kennedy, I’m in. I think I like Kuhn’s series better than this kind of thing, but man, this one hit the sweet spot. I hope it brings him a lot of success.

I received this book from a drawing on the author’s website. Mega-Thanks to Shane Kuhn and Simon & Schuster for the good read. As it was an ARC, there’s a chance that the quotations above might not be in the published version, I’ll try to confirm as soon as I can in a couple of weeks.

—–

4 Stars

In Medias Res: The Asset by Shane Kuhn

as the title implies, I’m in the middle of this book, so this is not a review, just some thoughts mid-way through.

—–

The Asset
The Asset

by Shane Kuhn

This is not the Shane Kuhn you know. Well, sort of. This is a standalone thriller about Airport/Airplane Security, Terrorism, and the USA’s efforts to keep the friendly skies, well, friendly. It’s not as fun and funny as The Intern’s Handbook or Hostile Takeover (or whatever they’re called in your part of the world). BUT it is just as well-written and suspenseful — and a little easier to believe, actually.

There are hints, suggestions, indicators, and other things pointing to an immanent terrorist attack on the U.S., and not enough people are taking the situation seriously. At least, least that’s the point of view of Kennedy, the security expert and protagonist, who is taking it very seriously. Taking place over 64 days (not a spoiler, that’s literally the 2nd line — although, there could be some action that takes place after that). Will Kennedy be in time to stop it? How will he? this is a pulse-pounder, a nail-biter, a “oh, crud — do I really have to go to work tomorrow? Do I actually need to sleep before then?” kind of book.

I think I’d prefer it to be harder to believe than the other two books, come to think of it.

I’m almost at the mid-way point of the ARC (with thanks to Simon & Schuster and Shane Kuhn) and I’m telling you now, you want to pre-order this, get on your library’s wait-list, or whatever (legal) thing you do to get your hands on a book. It comes out on July 12, you want to be ready for it.

John Scalzi and Shane Kuhn in Boise

If you’d asked me, I would’ve said I’ve written and posted this already. Apparently not. Whoops! Thanks for letting me know, Paul. So, I’ll take a quick break from packing up all my white clothes and get this up now. Better late than never, I guess. . . .
At the end of August, the best bookstore in Boise, Rediscovered Books, brought two authors to town for Readings/Signings. Back in college, I went to readings fairly frequently*, but since then I could count the number on one hand.

Shame on me. I need to do better at this. A good reading is one of the best forms of entertainment around. A less-good reading is pretty bad, but hey, at least you’re supporting the arts.

Anyway, the first author was John Scalzi. Perhaps you’ve heard of him — SF author extraordinaire, blogger, tweeter, etc., etc. Back on August 20, Rediscovered Books brought him to the auditorium of the Boise Public Library! (yes, the exclamation point is necessary). I wondered if that wasn’t overkill for SF in Boise. Not surprisingly, I was wrong and the people that do this stuff for a living were right. If they’d brought him to the bookstore, there’s no way we all could’ve fit, the audience packed the auditorium.

After a little chit-chat, he read a little from his upcoming novella The Dispatcher, his first foray into Urban Fantasy. He asked not to provide any details, as the only people getting this preview were those who came to this book tour. He did give us permission to — maybe even encouraged — gloat about hearing it. So, here we go: neener neener my wife and I got to hear the first chapter of The Dispatcher and most of you didn’t. It was pretty good, and I’ll be grabbing it as soon as I can.

He then read a couple of short humor pieces he wrote for AOL.com back in the 90’s that were appropriate for the Back to School season, and a pretty popular (and funny) blog post, Standard Responses to Online Stupidity. He then he spent 20 minutes or so doing Q&A — he was polite and friendly to the people asking questions, turned even awkward questions into something interesting in his answers (he’s been doing this for awhile).

What didn’t he read? Anything from the book that the tour was promoting — The End of All Things — which I found odd, but I was okay with because I’m way behind on that series. Very entertaining evening — the dude’s a pro.

During the signing, he was again friendly and pleasant and didn’t seem to mind people fanboying/fangirling all over him (which didn’t happen too much or without restraint on the part of the fans). When it was my turn, he laughed at my attempt at humor (which I’m going to believe was because I was moderately funny and not just because he’s sooper polite), gave me a nice, personalized autograph in my copy of The Android’s Dream that went with my joke.

And here’s photographic proof that I met John Scalzi:

A week later, things were a bit different for Shane Kuhn, a favorite around these parts, but largely unknown. Now, Rediscovered Books has been pushing Kuhn lately — he’s a Staff Pick, one of their book clubs read The Intern’s Handbook recently, etc. But a whopping 4 people showed up. Which, sure, provided a nice, intimate setting — but 4? Oh, wait, there were 2 bookstore employees there, too.

That had to be discouraging, but he went on with the show. After taking a poll of who’d read what of his (my wife hadn’t read anything yet, 2 were in various stages of Hostile Takeover, and I’d finished it earlier in the week), he read an early section of Hostile Takeover — the wedding — quitting at just the right spot — it was a good tease, you wanted to know what happened next; and I think the next part would’ve been very, very tricky to read aloud. He then took some questions, it was more of a chat, really. He had this annoying tendency to answer questions I wanted to ask in the middle of another answer, so I ended up not saying anything. Highlights included him talking a little bit about his next book, more of a mainstream thriller; and the process of getting The Intern’s Handbook to the Big Screen. He read another bit from the beginning of The Intern’s Handbook (after teasing my wife about reading the ending), where Alice and John first met.

Despite the low turnout, he didn’t (that I could tell) cut corner’s or half-ass his way through the reading, and was more than friendly to those of us who were there. If he comes back, we’ll do a better job strong-arming friends and family to come so that his audience will be bigger.

Here’s photographic proof that I saw Shane Kuhn (better angle on me than the other). If you go to Rediscovered’s Facebook page and see the photograph I appropriated, you can see 75% of the audience for the reading)


* And not just for the extra credit either. Although that probably kept me at some until the end.

Hostile Takeover by Shane Kuhn

Hostile TakeoverHostile Takeover

by Shane Kuhn
Series: John Lago Thriller, #2

Hardcover, 246 pg.

Simon & Schuster, 2015

Read: August 24, 2015


John Lago is back, folks — and he picks up right where he left off, with some of the most adrenaline and testosterone-fueled writing you’ll come across this year. That may not be your cup of tea.

Hostile Takeover is one of those sequels I didn’t think needed to exist. Seriously, who was dissatisfied with where things ended up for Lago? It was narratively sufficient as it was — but as the opening lines of this book could’ve literally been the next page in The Intern’s Handbook, it’s hard to complain.

So, John decides to tie up two loose ends: 1. Alice and 2. HR, Inc. He marries Alice and the two take over HR but it doesn’t take too long (at least not many pages) before both of those go wrong — they break up and she kicks him out of the company (not really spoiler material, folks, it’s in the Jacket Copy). John switches to Plan B, the complete destruction of both. Which is not the most mature of plans, you’ve got to admit.

Which is the bulk of the book — John going undercover again, John trying (and/or being the target of) elaborate assassination schemes, great fight scenes and enough munitions used to make Michael Bay choke. All delivered in that movie-obsessed, rapid-fire (no pun intended) narration that won over so many fans before.

I thoroughly enjoyed, have used already, and will continue to do so, Lago’s comments on the movie Fletch. It was that line that reminded me how much I liked the first book.

Did I enjoy this as much as The Intern’s Handbook? Nope. Only because it didn’t blow me away with it’s freshness. But it’s a worthy sequel, as good as it’s predecessor and leaves me wanting more. An intense, fast read — buckle up and enjoy the ride.

—–

4 Stars

The Intern’s Handbook by Shane Kuhn

The Intern's Handbook: A ThrillerThe Intern’s Handbook: A Thriller

by Shane Kuhn
Series: John Lago Thriller, #1


Hardcover, 276 pg.
Simon & Schuster, 2014
Read: May 5 – 7, 2014

“Interns are invisible. You can tell executives your name a hundred times and they will never remember it because they have no respect for someone at the bottom of the barrel, working for free. The irony is that they will heap important duties on you with total abandon. The more of these duties you voluntarily accept, the more you will get, simultaneously acquiring TRUST AND ACCESS. Ultimately, your target will trust you with his life and that is when you will take it.

So says John Lago, in his unofficial handbook for employees at Human Resources, Inc. — a false front for an organization of hitmen. He Handbook is part memoir, part confessional, part how-to, part the reflections of a professional

Along with nice tidbits like this, we get to see John’s last assignment for HRI — he’s sent in as an intern at a prestigious law firm to identify a shady partner and eliminate him. Having reached the ripe-old age of 25, retirement is looming (hard to believe someone in their late 20s is an intern anywhere), and he’s determined to go out on top. But for the first time in his illustrious career — things don’t go well for John. And when that starts to happen, it goes bad fast and in several different ways.

Bad for John, good for us — because watching him try to navigate out of trouble, while maintaining his cover is a blast. John’s a real professional, and whatever misgivings are starting to creep into his subconscious, his instincts are sound. Alice — initially, a fellow intern and competitor, and eventually, more — isn’t exactly what she seems, but is a fun character no matter what angle on the character we’re seeing. The head of HRI, Bob, is exactly the kind of shady, manipulative scoundrel you’d expect the executive behind an army of paid assassins to be.

By page 3, I’d written in my notes “smart, funny, sharp — if he keeps this up, I’ll be happy.” He did keep it up, and did better, there was an unexpected genuine heart in this book (particularly the last couple of chapters). The voice was fitting (and great) — as a fan of movies like Grosse Pointe Blank and The Whole Nine Yards, John’s less-than-charitable musings on pop culture depictions of his field were quite amusing and had the ring of truth. The action scenes were well-written, you could see everything (usually from the edge of your seat). Recommended.

—–

4 Stars