Avenger by Frederick Forsyth
Created: Tue Mar 23 12:19:53 2010 | Last modified: Tue Mar 23 12:19:53 2010
I usually am not interested in political novels and it was with reluctance that I began to read "Avenger" in the absence of any other fresh reading material. Not having read any other Frederick Forsyth novel before, I had no idea of his style or pattern of story-telling and it did take some getting used to. I must admit that initially I was forced to put it down because it appeared to be slow moving, contrived and far too verbose in coming to the point.
If you are interested in contemporary history, however, mingled with a bit of spice and action, you will enjoy Frederick Forsyth immensely. In this particular book, Forsyth does take us on a tour through the Yugoslav and Balkan conflict and its human tragedy; the Vietnam conflict (with special emphasis on the existence of the Tunnel Rats - an elite force of American GIs); the contemporary Arab world and the terror threat arising from Islamic extremists; the various American security agencies like the FBI, CIA, their roles and internal politics; and finally the practice of political criminals on the run across the globe taking asylum in banana republic states in South America.
Rather than narrate the plot briefly, it is sufficient to say that the complexity of the story lies solely in the interweaving of global events of widespread proportions occuring at different points of time with personal history and tragedy of the principal characters. The first half of the novel is almost entirely about setting the stage for, and understanding the actual plot elements that drive the story to the climax.
Because of this complexity, the human element is lost somewhere in the plot-weaving and you fail to emphathize or identify with any of the characters. Also the almost superhuman powers of Cal Dexter, former special forces Vietnam, takes a lot of swallowing even considering his background achievements. The need for revenge and the desire to bring former political criminals to justice in the US for acts of crime committed by them against Americans worldwide is explored in the context of the complexity of global politics and the influence of the US in foriegn affairs. No doubt the author used the controversial policies of the George W. Bush era to generate the necessary buzz around this novel. However, where the novel fails is to induce the necessary emotional impact to drive home the point, in spite of the detailed narration of human tragedies. In the final analysis this is a good story to read once but doesn't really stick or ask you questions.
All in all, I would say that this is a novel I would probably read once fully. The style of Forsyth is such that it doesn't really create a focal point of action; rather it paints a panoramic (though detailed) picture. In the crowd of characters and events, you tend to miss a few points completely. My rating is 3/5 because it is light and entertaining without overburdening either the reader's intellect or emotion.