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Crescent Blues Book Viewstwo moon iconThe Fiction Works. ISBN 1-58124-210-7

EM: So what number is your License to Kill? 

Bonde: Double O-O. Sir! 

EM: Really! How did you get that? 

Bonde: When I entered basic training they just looked at me and said "Oh-oh, Oh-oh...." 

Book: Paul Moomaw, The Lazarus DropLife lesson #1: Never be a good guy scientific type like Ermo Imry. Good guy scientific types inevitably get kidnapped. Case in point, Ermo discovers the mathematical formula for faster than light space travel. Now Ermo enjoys the hospitality of Mexican kidnappers while awaiting his sale to the Chinese. 

Freelance agent Nathaniel Blue, under contract to the CIA, leaps, crawls and does his best to rescue Ermo and persuade him to enjoy the fruits of American life. Along the way Nathaniel faces such characters as Chandra Beg, and the big and burgeoning Sister Bergstrom. 

The Lazarus Drop presents itself as a futuristic James Bond-style adventure set in a bleak future suffering from smog, global warming and flooding from melting icecaps. The straightforward plot pits the lone agent against an army and provides him the standard set of allies -- freedom fighters and other more self-serving mercenaries -- to get the job done. Needless to say Nathaniel succeeds in his assignment, though not quite in the way he expected.  

This framework provides all the right ingredients to make a good story, but somehow the recipe never quite jells. Despite the many dangers faced by Nathaniel and Ermo, the book lacks tension. Paul Moomaw hasn't quite captured the atmosphere needed to write a good thriller.  

Instead of losing oneself in the pace and action, you find yourself pondering the vague reality of Nathaniel's world. Basic character motivations prove even more elusive, especially in one scene where various characters change their allegiances so many times it almost turns the thriller into a comedy.  

But despite these flaws, the story's outrageous villains show Moomaw understands the ultimate purpose of any thriller -- to entertain. That in itself is a virtue.  

Stephen Smith

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