Target Viper – Ross Sidor: Book Review

 Sidor’s second action thriller takes his contract tactical operator Avery to Latin America in a fast, brutal, detailed, and gut-wrenching thrill ride against a FARC terrorist named the Viper. Avery, a one-word named protagonist, is a sociopathic, smart, logical, ruthless, and determined operator who’s a former Ranger and a CIA contractor under the GRS(Global Response Staff) unit. His mind and actions aren’t normally heroic, but Avery goes through a series of horrors and screwed-up situations in this thriller that shake the character’s cold personality. 

 

   The story begins with a DEA aided operation, where Avery is assisting a Columbian Spec ops unit in a mission against FARC and kills a dangerous criminal in the process. His target’s sister, the Viper, who’s another FARC terrorist, is out for Avery’s blood in a spree of revenge. Things escalate when the Viper obtains a set of hand-held surface-to-air missiles and begins to target commercial planes in her vengeful reign of terror, sending Avery on a collision course with her in a kill or be killed journey into darkness. Adding to the plot are many forces including Iranian spies, a former IRA terrorist, Latin American drug cartels and militant groups on all sides of the political extremes, bumbling CIA bureaucrats worried about their own career, a Columbian black ops spymaster with many personal demons, political negotiations with FARC who are also against the Viper, the DEA, and the Columbian special forces who all have their own agendas. 

 

   Target Viper isn’t an easy read but it’s loaded with real-world details about many militant groups, political histories, technical expertise that make it an educational read as well as a brutally hard-hitting action thriller that’s more blood-soaked than most of the mainstream thrillers out today. Though the narrative can slow down in moments of educative info dumps, most of the characters are weirdly fleshed out with their richly layered backstories and strong motivations for what they do. The action moves fast and unflinching, in no holds barred, chaotic and gory sequences that are written well to make them believable and shocking. It’s not a book with any romance or drama or fun, as the action thriller element goes on full throttle, loaded with many serious real world details and excessively dark scenarios in the narrative, making it definitely not for the faint of heart. 

 

   Sidor’s plotting constantly escalates the tension, amping up the stakes with each complication and devastation that occurs. The story moves from Columbia to Panama, and back to Columbia, and finally to Mexico, where in a climatic action-packed chase through underground tunnels Avery almost comes close to dying in a brutally intense confrontation between him and the Viper. None of the characters in this tale are safe, as this book can be read as a proper standalone thriller and there’s no point rooting for any of the characters who are all flawed and grim as they get, with all the incidents in this thriller going beyond the dark side while many serious thrillers try to focus on the moral gray. 

 

   Avery is a unique protagonist in this genre, as he’s not exactly heroic, but he’s not evil either, as a certain disturbing scene in this book shows his limits and humanizes him as a character. Shows like Narcos appear to be light-hearted when compared to Sidor’s Target Viper which goes more grimdark than most thrillers can dare to, while still humanizing the messed up situation in Latin American conflicts with an in-depth dive into the region’s situations that are written without any political angle or bias, and yet a painfully chaotic portrayal to consume. Thrillers like these aren’t an easy or a fun read, but there are more educative and gritty than most in the genre. Though Sidor’s prose and narration has room for improvement, the level of research and detail present in it mixed with the weaponized razor-sharp action sequences makes it a must-read for hardcore fans of the action-thriller genre who can handle such levels of darkness in their reading. 

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