“The Cyclops Initiative” by David Wellington is a fast moving political thriller. It has a lot of the action of other thrillers but also emphasizes the dilemma of veterans returning home. This third book of the series is the best to date.
“My contract is up. I am hoping the series will be renewed since I enjoy writing about these characters,” Wellington said. “They have a lot more stories to be told.”
The plot has a Predator drone destroying a cargo ship carrying radioactive materials at an inspection station in the Port of New Orleans. After another take down of power grids in California, intelligence strategists suspect a hacker somehow managed to commandeer the drones to carry out the attacks. Jim Chapel, a military intelligence officer, once a Special Forces commando, disagrees with his bosses’ conclusion that the culprit is a brilliant hacker known as Angel, someone he has worked closely with on past missions. She is the one person he trusts more than anybody and will do anything to clear her name. With the help of Angel, his ex-girlfriend Julia, and some other veterans who also lost limbs in war, Chapel tries to find who is behind this conspiracy that threatens his life, his friends lives, and the security of the US.
Intertwined in this action packed story is the contrast between characters. Readers of Wellington’s previous books might remember Angel as being confident, secure, with a take no prisoners personality whose shoulder Jim could lean on. Yet, now on the run and away from her computers she is portrayed as pitiful, someone who does not know how to handle herself publicly. Taken out of her element she is seen as a person with real flaws and problems. Wellington wants the readers to wonder, “Is she a healthy person who found her place in the world or someone who needs help?”
Wellington also contrasts the two sides of a warrior with the newly introduced character of Brent Wilkes versus Jim Chapel. Wilkes has the philosophy of “find, fix, and finish,” where he never worries about killing, does not talk about it, and just does it. On the other hand, Chapel uses his wit instead of his sniper skills, only killing someone as the last option.
There is also the intriguing contrast of past and present generations. Angel represents the new generation who enjoys interpersonal relationships while on the computer. A powerful quote explains her philosophy; “I was never alone after I got my computer. Any time, day or night, somebody was out there, wanting to talk or share files or whatever.” Yet, Julia, Jim’s girlfriend and Angel’s older friend, cannot understand Angel’s lack of live communication, and how she is satisfied in being a social hermit.
The story also points out the hypocrisy of politicians. Wellington does a great job of creating an action packed story centered around a major political conspiracy. He noted that the plot incorporates his own feelings, “Many politicians don’t see their constituencies as human beings, but rather as numbers on a page. I think they have disdain for the American people. For career politicians, on both sides of the aisle, it’s about how much power they can gain and not about how to help people. Politicians seem to forget that they are supposed to represent the people.”
The book has a shout out to all those in the armed forces who fought in the different wars and lost limbs, being kept alive because of medical technology advances. Wellington commented to blackfive.net, “I wanted to write about how those veterans who lost limbs still have a meaningful life. I hoped I showed how they cope differently, that their life will never be easy, and now it is much more complicated. For me, the struggle they are going through is just as heroic as anything they did on the battlefield. We as Americans should understand that war is so complicated, dangerous, and serious. It is not as depicted in the video games that turn it into a cartoon.”
“The Cyclops Initiative” is a captivating political thriller that is a page-turner. It explores many different issues through a riveting plot.