Monday, July 21, 2008

Scavenger, by David Morrell

(hb; 2007)

From the inside flap:

"Scavenger, Morrell's latest novel, takes us in a harrowing new direction -- a desperate high-tech scavenger hunt for a 100-year time capsule. Frank Balenger, the resolute but damaged hero of Creepers, now finds himself trapped in a nightmarish game of fear and death. To save himself and the woman he loves, he must play by the rules of a god-like Game Master with an obsession for unearthing the past. But sometimes the past is buried for a reason."


Scavenger is notably different than its prequel, Creepers. While it has all the template elements of its prequel -- a madman with illusions of grandeur, worthy adversaries and challenging traps/obstacles, and a hero (Balenger) trying to rescue his lady (this time its Amanda Evert, another survivor from Creepers), and unexpected plot corkscrews -- it's a weirdly altered beast. For one, the playing field isn't limited to a booby-trapped hotel, it's a mountainous valley; also, Balenger, an American veteran of both Iraq wars, is less traumatized by his PTSD (Post Tramatic Stress Disorder) this time out. Additionally, another, larger element dominates the tale: online gaming, specifically the type called "first-person shooter". Initially an odd element, it rapidly becomes integral to the storyline, as Balenger (and the other characters) fight and intuit their way through the Game Master's life-threatening "levels".

Not your average thriller, this is an excellent follow-up to Creepers. Make sure you check your expectations in at the door; you're not likely to be disappointed if you do.

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