Reviews from the 86th Floor: Barry Reese reviews Gideon’s Sword

Gideon’s Sword by Douglas Preston & Lincoln Child

Preston & Child are the authors of the much-loved Special Agent Pendergast series, the most recent of which (FEVER DREAM) introduced several layers to the series that further cement it as one of the best New Pulps out there. Pendergast is the Shadow, Doc Savage and The Spider, all rounded into one. It’s a tremendous tour-de-force and is highly recommended by this reviewer.

GIDEON’S SWORD is a new series, introducing Gideon Crew, who witnessed his father die in a suspicious manner. Gideon grew up believing his father was a traitor to his country and mentally unbalanced… but the truth is that his father was the fall-guy in a government conspiracy. Armed with this knowledge, Gideon sets out to get revenge — he does so (surprisingly easily) and is then recruited into a shadowy organization (one that was featured in other Preston & Child books, most notably ICE LIMIT). Gideon is also informed that he’s dying and has less than a year to live. He elects to live his life to the fullest and along the way has romantic relationships with both a prostitute with a heart of gold and a lovely CIA agent.

This felt like two books — the story of Gideon’s hunt for his father’s killer and then the story of his becoming a secret agent. The first part was simply awful and almost prompted me to give up on the book. It was trite, silly and at times, just stupid. The way people just gave up sensitive information or engaged in info-dumps for the benefit of the reader was very frustrating. Thankfully, once Gideon is recruited for his later work, things do improve, though they never come close to approaching the quality of every other Preston & Child book that I’ve read. As much as I enjoyed the character of Orchid, how many hookers-with-a-heart-of-gold have we seen in fiction? And while Gideon’s master-of-disguise talents appeal to the pulp lover in me, I didn’t get a clear indication of how Gideon mastered these skills and thus it felt convenient to me. The entire story was utterly predictable, which is not something I would usually say about these authors. Until this book, I would say that their worst work was still better than most authors’ best… but this was a disappointment, from page one.

There are enough signs of hope here that makes me think they could still salvage the series (the authors say they’ve already sold the film rights to (shudder) Michael Bay) but to be honest, I’d prefer to simply pretend this book didn’t happen and go back to enjoying the Pendergast books and the various one-offs that the authors have done (like the excellent ICE LIMIT or RIPTIDE).

I give it 2 out of 5 stars.