I enjoyed Adam Baker’s OUTPOST and recently had the opportunity to read JUGGERNAUT, a prequel. It was quite an experience. The novel tells the story of a team of hardened mercenaries in wartime Iraq who travel into the deep desert in search of a cache of Saddam’s gold, and get more than they bargained for.
Baker presents an APOCALYPSE NOW vibe to the war, and as with OUTPOST, but even more so, the narrative proceeds with breakneck speed, sucking you in with interesting plot questions and a steady, pounding literary rhythm.
Everybody in the book talks in the exact same ultra-macho way that may induce some eye rolling. The mercenaries are set up as extremely competent, hardened, world-weary killers; one describes himself as having lived more than losers at the mall with their kids–if you can call being a psychopath who kills people for money really living. In contrast to the mercenaries, the U.S. Marines are portrayed as a bunch of idiots who freeze under fire, and need saving. Other thriller tropes are laid on thick as well, such as constant betrayals and a general world-weary viciousness that permeates every character, making you not really care that much whether anybody in particular makes it.
That being said, I was fairly glued to the book. The characterizations are vivid and interesting, and JUGGERNAUT reads like Tom Clancy meets Michael Crichton on macho juice, with lots of gun and tech porn, crisp action, tons of plot twists, rich setting and a steadily unfolding mystery that culminates in the mercenaries facing a horrific, unstoppable enemy. In short, I didn’t love it, but I enjoyed the hell out of it, and applaud Baker for his unique voice and take. No joke, this is an author to watch.