This was a fantastic no-brainer action/thriller contemporary paranormal bullet and bomb extravaganza. This is not a book for navel-gazers. At no point are Big Important Questions asked, there are no moral quandries to wade through, nor are there any complex metaphors to be extrapolated from the characters or the plot. The plot is straightforward and the characters are just complex enough to mouth their words and move through their blocking. This is not a book that is concerned with exploring the human condition. The good guys are good, the bad guys are evil and the guns are always blazing.
This is an action/thriller, and it's excellent at that. The author is clearly very familiar with firearms and combat, and it shows in each of the (too many to count) action scenes. This is a long book, one of the longest fiction books I've read in the last three years, and the pages fly by because a considerable part of the pagecount are action scenes. Oh so beautifully exquisite actions scenes. Mr. Corriea has an amazing ability to make "bullet time" work in the printed form; he knows exactly how to stretch adrenaline soaked seconds into paragraphs without getting bogged down in unnecessary or repetitive detail. The action scenes are absolutely what makes this book such a joy to read.
The world Mr. Corriea is solidly contemporary and avoids being too specifically dated for the most part. Clearly it's post 9/11 and all the action takes place in the southern region of the United States. I believe readers not familiar with the area shouldn't have any trouble placing the action or understanding what's going on. He also brings a refreshing perspective to the paranormal elements; all the usual suspects (vampires, werewolves, fairies, wights, zombies, orcs etc) are well represented, as well as solid grounding in Cthulhuism. The author does a good job of avoiding Tolkienisms and putting his own spin on the typical tropes for each of the monster types, and the whole system he's developed hangs together quite well. Why these creatures exist and where they come from isn't examined and I'm ok with that. There's enough cannon fodder thrown in front of our intrepid band of merry heroes that backstory isn't important.
Mr. Corriea is knows his way around the canon horror, fantasy and action tropes and subtly interjected throughout the exposition are some clever easter eggs. At no point do they detract from the flow of the story and I'm sure there are a number of homages that I missed. In the hands of a less audacious author the protagonsist Owen, as presented to us, would have started out as a god mode sue and then found himself in a monty haul. The interwebs are littered with ebooks that fall down that oft tread and boring path. Not. This. Book. Every time I feel like Owen is levelling up too fast, he faces new foes and challenges that leave him nearly dead and utterly confused. This is a book that takes the heroe's journey arc, cranks it up to eleven and then breaks the knob off. Most impressively, it's fun to follow along.
Characterization is the weak point but I don't read gun porn to make new best friends. The supporting characters are all built from a predictable formula (skill + old psychological wound) x (socieconomic background + cultural niche) and they don't feel like they exist anywhere outside of the main characters' line of sight. There is a romance that is crucial to driving some key plot elements but because the characters are so unidimensional and shallow it's not very believable. The book lost a star for this. I nearly took another star off because there is no explicit sex, but I don't want to affect the average rating just because the book wasn't written just for me.
Please note: I don't review to provide synopses, I review to share a purely visceral reaction to books and perhaps answer some of the questions I ask when I'm contemplating investing time and money into a book.