Novel: Alpha by Greg Rucka

Greg Rucka’s new novel series starts with Alpha (2013), a short, brisk thriller about a Delta Force operative, Jad Bell. When intelligence suggests that a terrorist attack may strike a Disney-like theme park in Southern California, Bell is inserted as its undercover security agent, there to protect the park and counter the threat. Sure enough, an attack is unleashed, evacuating the park and kicking Bell’s job into another gear: with only a handful of allies, he must face off against sleeper agents and ruthless mercenaries, rescue hostages, and prevent the situation from escalating into a full-blown disaster.

As usual Rucka’s prose is effortlessly read, smooth and entertaining, and the narrative unfolds quickly. I found Bell to be a serviceable, if somewhat garden variety, action hero, and the theme park backdrop is vivid and cinematic. That said, the machinations of the plot are pretty straightforward and not terribly deep, although there are promising suggestions of further intrigue surrounding both the terrorists responsible, and the nebulous organization for whom Bell works. So the first volume felt a bit like a popcorn movie to me, but there’s potential for more action and complexity to come; interested to see where the series goes.

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