(For a change of pace and to show I have other interests besides video games, This week I will review a book.)
For Valour is an action thriller by Andy McNab (Author of Bravo Two Zero, Red Notice, and Battlefield 3: The Russian, amongst others.) The 16th (!) book in his Nick Stone series, it follows mercenary Nick Stone back to Britain, where he is trying to distance himself from his girlfriend and newborn son from the danger and chaos that seems to follow him around. Called on by a friend, he learns that the son of a dead squad mate is in trouble, charged with the death of a fellow SAS member during a routine live fire training exercise. His friend suspects that there is more to this, that the son is covering up for something that happened in the mountains of Afghanistan and he was framed to keep him quiet. Any doubt that Nick had was quickly shattered as his friend is killed by a sniper and he finds himself in danger. Not knowing who to trust, he carefully makes contact with some old comrades in the SAS, trying to find out the truth. That journey takes him to the Balkans, Spain, Cyprus and into the heart of a conspiracy.
For Valour, like all of the Nick Stone books, are written from the perspective of the protagonist, former SAS soldier, deniable operative and current mercenary for hire, Nick Stone. The writing gets you into his mind, letting you see the world through his view, warts and all. Unlike, say Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan or Ian Flemming’s James Bond, Stone is definitely a blue collar hero, surviving on his wits (and dumb luck). The character has gotten into some money in this series, but he is always about the basic, store bought equipment and most of his weapons are acquired off of his friends or enemies.
This is the 16 book in McNab’s Nick Stone series son the author is fairly consistent with the character’s voice. I have read all of this series to date and I still find these books to be a fun read. Andy McNab has real experience to draw from, from his days in the British army and SAS to his job as a body guard and security consultant. Unlike Clancy who had no military experience to speak of and Flemming, who was British Intelligence but never served on the front lines, McNab has actual combat experience. He served in various places around the globe. He was even captured and tortured by the Iraqi Army in the First Gulf War. These experiences helps him to create a thrilling realistic story.
Another this I like is that the story is more personal. There isn’t any “God, Queen and Country’ pomposity. I’ve read other books that have a decidedly “America: Right or wrong” vibe to it and been put off. While this book does not hide it’s Britishness, there is more of a down to earth feel. This is about a man who is trying to do what he believes is right. In the older books, it was about making money, enough to provide a decent life. Usually, he ended up worse than when he started, with some part of the mission would have him break his personal code of honour. Many times he barely wins, if you can call it a win. Lately he has been more successful, but eventually his path in life costs him something dear.
Being the 16th book in the series could put someone off reading this if they are unfamiliar with the series. The book is pretty much self contained and not hard to get into. I do wonder how many books Mr. McNab can get out of this character as he always starts the book off with a look into Stone’s past. He has other books with similar subject matter (one book, Red Notice, has been optioned for a Movie) but still, I have enjoyed these books for years. I recommend this book for fan of action thrillers who are looking for something less flashy than something with Tom Clancy’s name plastered on it but with some depth.