Sabotage by Matt Cook
A cruise ship loses power in the North Atlantic. A satellite launches in the South Pacific. Professor Malcolm Clare—celebrated aviator, entrepreneur, and aerospace engineer—disappears from Stanford University and wakes up aboard an unknown jet, minutes before the aircraft plunges into the high seas.
An extortionist code-named “Viking” has seized control of a private warfare technology, pitting a U.S. defense corporation against terrorist conspirators in a bidding war. His leverage: a threat to destroy the luxury liner and its 3,000 passengers.
Stanford doctoral student Austin Hardy, probing the disappearance of his professor, seeks out Malcolm Clare’s daughter Victoria, an icy brunette with a secret that sweeps them to Saint Petersburg. Helped by a team of graduates on campus, they must devise Trojan horses, outfox an assassin, escape murder in Bruges, and sidestep treachery in order to unravel Viking’s scheme. Failure would ensure economic armageddon in the United States.
When it comes to a good techno-thriller, I’m looking for a number of key elements. Sabotage by Matt Cook does a pretty good job of ticking almost all the boxes on my extensive checklist. There are a plethora of far-flung locales, some believable tech (nothing ever feels massively outlandish or overblown) and some decent plot twists.
The characters are pretty cool and you get a sense there is room in the writing for them to move and grow. Austin Hardy is the main protagonist, but I have to admit a soft spot for the character Jake Rove. While Austin is clever and often manages to stay one step ahead of the bad guys, Rove is more about actions than words. You get the distinct impression that this is a man who has been around the block more than once and he knows how to handle himself. I’d love to learn more about him. Fingers crossed Rove becomes a fan favourite and returns again in further adventures.
Pace is also a key factor, and here is where Cook nails it. The action rattles along like an out-of-control roller coaster, and there is never a dull moment. Sabotage gets extra points for being the first thriller I’ve ever read that features a chase where one character is wearing only a pair of Speedos. I’ll be honest, that was unexpected to say the least.
My only quibble is that on a couple of occasions I found things got a bit exposition heavy. Rather than events unfolding naturally, a character would spend a handful of pages explaining what had happened. I’m not a huge fan of this approach, I like getting caught up in the centre of events. I’m firmly in favour of ‘show don’t tell’, anything else just feels wrong.
Fans of Matthew Reilly and Clive Cussler are bound to appreciate all that is on offer in this solidly entertaining escapism. Sabotage is a fine introduction to the world of Austin Hardy, and I look forward to more in the future. I’m curious to see how the eclectic bunch of characters are going to evolve and I hope this book does well enough to ensure the author gets the chance to develop this into an ongoing series. There are some nice flourishes in this debut and bucket loads of potential. If you fancy taking a chance on a new writer this could well be the book that you’re looking for.
Sabotage is published by Forge and is available now.