Friday, November 19, 2004

Review: A Gentleman's Game

A Gentleman's Game: A Queen & Country Novel
by Greg Rucka
$24.00 Bantam Dell ISBN: 0-553-80276-3

Besides being known as a comic writer, Greg Rucka also has a career as a novelist, best known for his Atticus Kodiak thrillers. So it makes a certain amount of sense for him to combine his two worlds by writing a novel based on his creator-owned Queen & Country series. This presents us then with two questions: How does A Gentleman's Game work as a spy thriller, and how does it work as an extension of the comic book?

As a spy thriller, it works very well indeed. As the main protagonist, Tara Chase is a great character, highly competant but flawed. The plot is a doozy: following a terrorist attack on the London subway system, Tara's SIS section is called upon to retaliate against the terrorists. I won't spoil the plot any further, except to say that there are a couple of great twists that come just at the right time and are as logical as they are surprising. In fact, one of the greatest joys of the novel is that none of the characters have to act like idiots in order for the story to work. While characters may make bad decisions, they are not stupid decisions. I have no idea how accurate the details and settings of this novel are, but it certainly has the feel of authenticity and that Rucka has done his homework. His prose is detailed but doesn't get bogged down, and he can write action as well as the quieter moments. Given that this is based on a comic with which a majority of the readers will be unfamilar, there is a good deal of info-dumping in the first 50-100 pages to get things set up, but it is integrated into the plot and never feels like a plot summary.

A Gentleman's Game also works well as the next chapter for the Queen & Country series. While it is not necessary to be previously familiar with Tara Chase and the rest of the cast from the comic, fans of the comic will find much here to enjoy. Unlike many novels based on comics where the author has to pretty much put things back in place by the end of the book, since Rucka owns Queen & Country he can do whatever he wants, and by the end of A Gentleman's Game things have definitely changed in Tara's world. Rucka uses the opportunities inherent in the novel format to flesh out Tara's world and to give us insight into her internal life and the lives of those around her. This is a both a deeply personal story and a large plot-driven story; and while it would not have been impossible to tell in comic form, it would have had to have been very different, given the difference in the two mediums.

In closing, if you are a fan of spy thrillers, you will enjoy A Gentleman's Game, and if you are a fan of Queen & Country, this novel is a not-to-be-missed installment in the story of Tara Chase.

Rating: 4 (of 5)

No comments: