Ben Coes takes his badass action hero Dewey Andreas through hell in First Strike(2016), the sixth in the series, which is a wild thriller with ISIS as the main villains. The Dewey Andreas books for me are an experience that is a mix of Michael Bay movies and a darker version of Mission Impossible. So, this book is strictly for heroic, epic, large-scale, action packed entertainment, and not for realism. Yet, despite the outrageously wild plot, First Strike was weirdly emotional at times, and the high amounts of techno-detail with the many pages spent on glorifying all the weapons only added to the fun.
This thriller takes a speculate what if look at ISIS being the creation of a US black ops arms for influence program that comes out of the Arab Spring movement, and the large cast of characters involved in this tale makes it feels like a wilder, faster, and more pulpy version of a Tom Clancy story. Though it’s unrealistic, it’s an interesting alternate reality action thriller that takes its time to develop all the multiple plot points, characters, and events, but when the pace picks up, the book goes on full throttle with Dewey Andrews and the large cast of characters turbo charged into the fray. Most of the characters are stuck in situations with no good options and the story keeps turning grim and grimmer before they get better at the end.
Tristan Nazir, the main villain of First Strike, is a complex, enigmatic, brilliant yet fanatical, evil yet sympathetic character who stands out from most of the villains in the ‘post 9/11’ subgenre of thrillers. He probably gets more attention and pages in this book than Dewey, though they never personally face off in the story. Dewey, the former Delta Force operator turned CIA paramilitary asset, has developed through the events of the previous five books of this series and is a somewhat responsible character in this book, but he’s still dangerously badass in his six and a half feet tall, hulking frame and his dark yet fun sense of humor. Though Dewey’s on the sidelines for major parts of the story, he racks a high body count where he keeps mowing down his adversaries in Syria and in the finale that happens at a college dorm in Columbia University. Alone, cut-off, and ambushed in an important operation that goes horribly wrong, Dewey is in the fight for his life in Syria where he gets tortured and fights his way out to escape execution. Dewey’s a wrecking ball filled with a fighting spirit like the best action heroes on screen, but even he gets fatalistic when his situation gets too grim.
The story escalates after the US government refuses to give into Nazir’s demands and his forces take the college dorm building hostage, leading to one of the most gruesome and bloodiest hostage situations found in action thrillers. Coes knows how to make his villains powerfully large-scale and extremely evil while still giving them tragic backstories, but First Strike takes its antagonists to a very dark extreme. The detailed and vast narrative doesn’t slow down the book, as the tension keeps on increasing in its intensity and the vast cast of characters are all interesting. The fast-paced rampage of chaos and carnage moves like a bullet and Ben Coes’ writing is almost cinematic, like experiencing a seriously epic action movie. Most of the characters are heroic and fun, but many are stuck to suffer the consequences of their actions which they’d orchestrated with good intentions but get trapped with no good choices.
With fun doses of comedy, high amounts of carnage and mayhem, the tension never stops once the story ignites, and First Strike gave an action thriller connoisseur like me a couple of days of entertainment that I don’t regret. The book can be very pulpy and unrealistic at times, but it’s fiction, and I enjoyed the outrageously wild fun. Dewey isn’t the smartest protagonist in the genre, but he’s one of the toughest and most dangerous characters in all action thrillers and fights relentlessly through his obstacles.