Top critical review
A new installment in a downward spiral
Reviewed in the United States on April 15, 2018
I've been an ardent RWW fan from his first Doc Ford book, so writing a less than stellar review isn't easy for me. But as an ardent fan I feel obligated to provide feedback that may somehow help to nudge his work back on track.
This book continues the downward spiral of the Doc Ford series, which is tragic given how excellent the series was until a few years ago. The early books in the series were perfect--Doc Ford was a bookish and unassuming scientist who was far more capable and deadly than any of his friends could have guessed, let alone believed. He lived a simple, quiet, and satisfying life. And while there were vague rumors that he may have been an operative of some sort in his distant past, it never played a role in his current life as a scientist other than giving him the skills he needed to help out friends in need. He was a loner by choice and relied solely on his wits and wrestling skills to discreetly resolve relatively straightforward issues that plagued his friends. This premise worked beautifully and resulted in some excellent books that were gripping and yet easy on the imagination.
Fast forward a dozen books or so and we find Doc Ford actively engaged as a covert government assassin (sometimes with his ditsy and untrained cousin Ransom--are you kidding??) with immense tactical resources provided by a huge network of covert organizations, and simultaneously flailing about in relationship fiascoes and personal drama that make daytime soap operas look like paradise. He no longer gets into fights, and the last time he did he got his ass kicked (there was one book that was a turning point in the series where he got beat up, and since then he hasn't been much of a guardian of the oppressed). It's like someone in RWW's life has been (figuratively) beating him up and forcing him to tone down Doc Ford's use of his physical skills as a way to resolve issues with bad guys--like a PC thing--and at the same time cranking up the personal drama in Doc Ford's life to make it look more like a cheap reality show, possibly in the name of "developing" Doc Ford's personal life, which was just fine as it was. These days Doc Ford seems to spend most of his time dealing with estranged kids and ex-wives and ex-girlfriends and ex-girlfriends turned lesbians--and who knows what's going to turn up next in that sordid lineup--none of which help the story lines, and most of which are utterly pointless and have seriously hurt the series. Add the insane and confusing mysticism like we find in this book, and you end up with a series about a confused and incompetent assassin/scientist who does almost nothing and plays a minimal role in the books that are supposed to showcase his skills and abilities at solving problems. Now his main role in the books seems to be to impotently chase friends (mainly Tomlinson), blindly react to clever enemies, deal with tawdry personal drama, and never quite come to the rescue like he used to.
All in all this series of books has become frustrating and disappointing and almost a waste of time. RWW would do well to listen to his many fans and get these books back on their original track (as described above). All the extra stuff that has developed over the years has not added an iota of good to the series, and the series would benefit greatly by jettisoning all of it and going back to its basics.