Wednesday, April 8, 2015
My review of Jim Beard's GI Joe Adventure Team: Mystery of the Sunken Tomb. Really good stuff!
Led by GI Joe (hereafter referred to as Joe in this review), a former military man, the team consists of a number of experts in their respective fields, including archaeology, aeronautics, and mechanical design. New recruits are handpicked by Joe, and face a grueling training regimen that is uniquely designed to bring out the best in each potential team member, while also shoring-up any inherent weaknesses which they might possess. Each man operates independently of the group on a regular basis, but when the call comes in through their coded radio receiver, the Adventure Team unites, springing into action like a well-oiled machine!
The story starts with Joe in the middle of a black-bag job, searching for a missing missile payload containing ultra-secret spy technology, which has crashed somewhere in the ocean's depths. Working for unnamed government contacts, he finds what he is searching for, but in so doing also stumbles across a mind-blowing find... Sunken ruins off the coastline of California, which appear to be ancient Egyptian in nature, and may change the course of history as we know it! Sending out a call to his team, the men come together to research this seemingly impossible find, never realizing that they have stumbled upon something that is much more dangerous than they can ever imagine.
Jim Beard has an absolute talent for swift-paced action stories, and this one is no exception. That said, the pace is a bit slower in this release than in some of his other works, although this isn't a bad thing. It allows the characters and situations to be more fully realized, and the slow escalation of certain elements of the story adds a great deal of nuance to the tale, while working alongside the full-tilt action scenes to push the story to another level. A wicked element of mystery (what did you expect, it's in the title) shrouds the story, present in both the team itself, in their shocking archaeological find, and in the cultish adversaries that seek to keep them from their goal.
One of the best things about the story is the villains. Throughout the beginning of the story, the team's adversaries are natural things, including the sharks that surround the sunken ruins, and a tropical storm that is bearing down on their camp. This changes as the story moves along, with the men gradually becoming aware that a more sinister group has set their sights on the ruins, attempting to recover a powerful artifact that has lain hidden there for centuries. The mystery of this group is never fully explained, although there is a tantalizing hint about what they truly are towards the end of the story, which sets up a possible sequel. The leader of the villains is as ruthless as he is mysterious, caring not an iota for anything other than the power he will gain after completing his long-held goal, and is willing to go to extreme lengths to secure the artifact that is waiting within the ruins. Granted, many of these points apply to any well developed group of adversaries in a good story, but I really enjoyed the way the author gradually worked them into the narrative, and the hints about them towards the end of the story were very much appreciated, while still maintaining the aura of mystery around the group. To put it simply, well done!
To sum up, one might ask why you, as a potential new reader of this title, should pick this story up, especially if you have no formative experience with the characters that are depicted within the story. Well, here's my list of reasons... The story is well-written, dynamically told, with both flowing action-sequences and cliff-hanger endings, which are derived from the pulp style of storytelling. As mentioned in the above paragraphs, there is an aura of mystery that permeates the tale, quite deliciously so. The feeling of high adventure and the mysteries of the unknown are part and parcel to this release, and the journey is both loads of fun, and quite reminiscent of watching an old-time serial, although one set in a more recent time period. For a quick visual reference, think of the Jonny Quest series, without the boyish misadventures of Jonny and Hadji, instead being totally focused on a team of highly-trained experts investigating the mysteries of the unknown. For those that love adventure, mystery, and vanishing into a much more welcome head-space, this is recommended reading.
Here's a couple of primers to the characters involved in the story, starting with Jim Beard's blog post about the release. And here's some background about the Adventure Team, over at Wikipedia. Here's Jim's blog, where you can keep up with what he's currently working on, and here's his fan page on Facebook. Stop by and say hello! Finally, here's where you can pick up the release (Kindle edition), and here's his author page on Amazon, so swing by and take a look around! As usual, happy reading, and goodnight!