The review -
A tale about modern day covert warfare does not get any more unconventional and anti-type than Scorpion. Mr. Sidor scores top points in originality and in-depth research, but could have made the narration a bit more reader-friendly.
Scorpion deals with an elite paramilitary operations contractor named Avery, who works under the Scorpion program within the GRS. You may have recognized GRS(Global Response Staff) from the 13 Hours movie which focused on the Benghazi fiasco.
Avery’s lifestyle and operational methods are quite interesting and different from most of the characters in the genre. He’s too disciplined health-wise and a mess socially. But he sure is a shrewd tactician when he manages to outsmart his smarter and more resourceful enemies though he comes out damaged physically and mentally by the end.
Despite the single-word name of the protagonist, he’s shown to be highly flawed, emotionally driven and at times, his risks almost cost him his life. The character is told to be a former Ranger and a Green Beret, but incidents from his military career are only hinted. I certainly think that a few of the character’s past events would be well served if narrated as a flashback or a memory.
The plot revolves around a traitor positioned as the station chief in Dushanbe, a FSB officer, an Eastern European Vor gang, and mix in some nuclear materials, terrorists and a get rich quick scheme.
This may seem like your everyday spy thriller but Mr. Sidor’s unique plot locations, story pacing, narration and structure along with intense realism brought about by serious research puts him apart from the mainstream pulp authors.
Sidor reads numerous tomes on the topics used in his books before he actually writes them. So, naturally, Scorpion reads more like a fun textbook on exotic geography, history, geopolitics, covert operations, diplomatic relations, military hardware and issues in different countries. This priority of loading massive amounts of research in each chapter can feel like the character development and the narration is hindered at times.
Almost every character in the book is well rounded and has a clear reason for doing what they are doing. One of the villains, Bob Crammer, has serious character development though he appears in only a few pages. Avery’s interactions with a female Russian activist/journalist are portrayed with realism when read with the context. There isn’t any cliched romance subplot in Scorpion which most authors force into their books.
The action is brutal and bloodily realistic. Avery is not shown as a one man wrecking ball but uses a well rounded team for many purposes. Avery does take a lot of damage from the bad guys. So if your mind is weak, this is not the book for you.
Another problem that I noticed was that most of the scenes involved more telling and less showing. Mr. Sidor’s narrative will connect with his readers if he shows more of the scenes and explores the characters’ voices in the narration. Instead of dumping facts, I think the readers would find his stories very emotional if he explored the thoughts and feelings of the characters while the said characters are talking or doing any action.
On the whole, Scorpion is a brilliantly plotted and researched book that could be better with some more editing. The ending is realistic enough in shades of gray, where not everything can be fixed and solving the problems that can be fixed comes at a cost. The climax feels Clancy-esque where numerous characters and players together solve what can be solved.
With locales like Tajikistan and Minsk featuring heavily, this book was a refreshing change from reading mainstream books that repeat and recycle plots. This plot continues in book three of this series with the return of one of the villains and I hope to continue binge reading Ross’s series eventually.
Mr. Sidor is surging with talent but this book will appeal mostly to hard-core fans of the military-covert warfare genre. A fine mix of old-school intelligence gathering, special operations and modern signals intelligence techniques is blended in Scorpion.