Jack Carr steals the thriller crown with his latest book In The Blood—available today. It’s hands down the best summer read in the thriller genre. Carr did something very special in this book, he crafted an original narrative in a genre dominated by the formulaic. Carr deftly weaves science fiction-turned science fact-into the bloody and cordite perfumed tapestry of James Reece’s snake-eater, pipe-hitting story.
Carr’s protagonist, James Reece, is torn from the woman he loves by the mass murdering plot of his nemesis, a world class Syrian sniper, Niazar Kattan. The sinister Syrian was already responsible for the death of one of Reece’s CIA compatriots, killing him with a single long-distance shot.
But if you think this book is just another exercise in revenge, you’ve got several big surprises in store for you. During a recent interview with the author, Carr told Townhall that forgiveness plays a central role in the book’s narrative.
“It’s a sniper centric novel, [with a] violent resolution..yet [without] falling into the trope of two opposing snipers on a hillside. But the forgiveness piece..became more of a theme than I anticipated at the outset..it is something so powerful whether in a novel or in the rest of our lives.”
Carr surprises and builds suspense that keeps the reader engaged and turning pages. Originality comes in many forms with In The Blood, not the least of which is a character named Abelard. Reece first meets Abelard in a dusty antiquarian bookshop, specializing in rare book restorations. But what is so unusual is Abelard’s confinement to a wheel chair, and his subsequent contributions to Reece’s survival and hunt for Nizar. In fact, Abelard is crucial to Reece’s survival and proves himself a dangerous and capable foe even without the use of his legs.
During an interview with Townhall, Carr was asked about the significance of Abelard’s character and the unusual inclusion of a wheelchair-bound character in a tactical narrative. Carr said that Abelard “is a character that I’ve been wanting…to weave into a story for quite some time…he’s inspired by someone, I won’t say exactly who..the name means something as well..you’ll have to go back into the pages of some thrillers from times gone by. I’m hoping to incorporate him into future novels as well.” With the incorporation of Abelard, Carr further demonstrates his commitment to and concern for disabled veterans from every branch of service.
In The Blood is more than a blood and guts thriller; it is cerebral and multifaceted. Sniping is a thinking man’s game—three dimensional chess and the loser dies. That’s probably not a revelation to the thriller enthusiast, but what will be revelatory is the terrifying scope, capability, and role of Artificial Intelligence (AI) in forming and directing national strategic policy. This book doesn’t belong on the Science Fiction shelf, mostly because what is described in the narrative isn’t science fiction—that fact will raise the hair on the back of your neck.
Carr crafts a feminine AI whose seeming omniscience makes you think twice about powering up your laptop. You’ll never look at your smartphone the same way again after consuming Carr’s artful prose. Alice—Carr’s AI—inhabits the deepest recesses of the internet and conforms the digital landscape to her specification. She consumes. Carr breathes life into the digital persona and you can almost feel Alice’s machine eyes through the lens of your forward-facing camera. Alice’s realm is the virtual, at least for now. The possibilities of quantum computing, computers exponentially more powerful than the combined power of scores of supercomputers, can only be guessed as Reece is confronted with the developing technology.
The AI concept wasn’t part of the original executive summary, Carr said, “that came out of the research. It definitely was not intentional. I wanted to go down the path of exploring quantum computing, mass data storage, surveillance of U.S. citizens…a lot of the books written about that, [Edward Snowden’s book, for example], are already a decade old…I had to talk to people who were more current…I talked to multiple people…with a touchpoint…each and every one of them told me, ‘we could tell you more’…but the reality is even worse than what I describe in the novel.”
Carr’s previous books were poignant and this one is no exception. James Reece finds himself at Arlington National Cemetery, gazing at row upon row of bone-white headstones. He reflects for a moment and wonders, “Is this country even worth fighting for?” In light of the recent, disastrous withdrawal from Afghanistan, and litany of subsequent left-wing debacles, this question must inhabit the thoughts of many of America’s war-fighters.
Carr responded to this question thoughtfully, “That’s a question I’ve been asking well before the withdrawal in August. And to rush to failure like that—to have twenty years to plan for that eventuality—is that the best the American government can do for our service men and women who put themselves on the front line to enact policies by people who will never stand that guard? We rushed to our failure.”
Carr’s counsel is to learn from our mistakes and consider what we owe the families of those who gave the last full measure of their devotion, and to those who struggle with traumatic brain injury, or those who have lost limbs. We ought to remember that these battlefield injuries dramatically affect the families of our wounded warriors. Going forward, we owe a duty to the fallen, to the wounded, and to their families to ensure that incompetence nor politics plays a role in national policy.
In The Blood is Carr’s best book to date and demonstrates a mastery of the genre—it rightly belongs in the constellation of Clancy, Thor, Morrell, and Flynn. The book ends with the blood price paid in full, but the debts aren’t paid the way you might think. The paltry sum paid for the book will yield dividends in many hours of enthralling reading. And, if you can’t get enough of James Reece, you can catch the Amazon Prime series The Terminal List starring Chris Pratt, which premieres July 1st.
“War was always here. Before Man was, war waited for him. The ultimate trade awaiting its ultimate practitioner.” —Cormac McCarthy, Blood Meridian