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Pendergast would run circles around Gideon
on March 5, 2011
When he was twelve, Gideon Crew witnessed his father's murder. Over the course of the following twenty years, he plotted his revenge. Gideon's vengeful machinations, however, draw the attention of a shadowy organization which believes his unique skill-set could be of great use to them.
Such is the set up for the new novel, Gideon's Sword, by frequent collaborators Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child. Preston and Child are better known for their series of thrillers featuring FBI agent Aloysius Pendergast, which includes Cemetery Dance and Fever Dream. With Gideon's Sword, the duo begins a new series following the exploits of the aforementioned Gideon Crew.
In an interview, Child stated that, given that Crew would be a near polar opposite of Pendergast, the style of the new series should likewise be different. And it is. The Pendergast novels offer an excellent balance of content and style, the story moving rapidly while allowing for a more in-depth exploration of both plot and character. Gideon's Sword, on the other hand, has been stripped to the bone. It is sleek and fast paced, but somewhat bare and often rushed.
Like the series in which he operates, Pendergast is a complex character whose history is largely hidden from the reader. He is mysterious and fascinating. Gideon Crew, though, exists, like the novel in which he is featured, entirely on the surface. He is brash, impulsive, young, but not especially interesting.
The plot revolves around intrigue of a vaguely political nature. There are none of the pseudo-paranormal events familiar to readers of the Pendergast series. The authors integrate such topics as social engineering and Falun Gong into the narrative without succumbing to playing teacher to the reader's student (a frequent fault of Jeffrey Deaver's). This is done fairly well, and while serving the plot, but they have done so more effectively in other novels.
In Gideon's Sword, the authors have adopted a style that is more reminiscent of James Patterson, while their previous work was evocative of Michael Crichton. This first of the Gideon books is a fun, whip-fast read, but it doesn't offer much beyond its plot. It is a literary appetizer; tasty enough, but it serves only to prepare the palate for something more substantial.
This is not entirely a bad thing. Sometimes we want a little break in between heavier reads or, to extend a metaphor, we might want a snack in between meals. I will buy the next in the Gideon series, to be titled Gideon's Corpse, but I will buy it in paperback and it will be read between more complex thrillers . . . like nearly anything else by Preston and Child.