Wednesday, 19 August 2020

Book review : The Ascendant - Drew Chapman

The Ascendant by Drew Chapman is one of the books I picked up at The Works way back before the confinement kicked off. It was in the sale and cost a whopping £1. For that price, you can't go wrong, but it's actually a pretty good read.

The main character is a young high-flyer on Wall Street called Garrett Reilly. He has a gift for spotting patterns in numbers and data that nobody else will pick up on, so he can see when it's time to make a killing by buying or selling whichever stocks and shares are on the way up or down. He has the big bucks that go with the job, but also the big attitude. Getting drunk and picking random fights seems to be how he enjoys spending his free time.

When he spots a strange pattern emerging at work - two hundred billion dollars worth of US Treasury bonds being sold off at an unbelievable rate - he, surprisingly, decides to inform his boss, rather than just cash in on the unexpected transactions. His boss informs the people that need to know in the government and money is ploughed back into buying up the bonds to shore up the economy and avoid a crash. Then there's a car bomb which almost costs Garrett his life.

With no idea of what is actually going on, Garrett is grabbed by government agents and taken to a secret location, where he is asked to work for the government, spotting similar patterns and helping avoid threats that would lead the United States into a new war. This new war would not involve guns and artillery. It would hit America where it really hurt, causing big businesses and important markets to fall down in ruins, infecting the computers that control all the essential services that the nation needs and, basically, just causing total chaos. 

Garrett is assigned a small team of co-workers and, together, they set out to observe news feeds and data from all across the world in the hopes that they will spot weird patterns and events. Surprisingly, they do but the president and his military aides have a hard time trusting Garrett in this new function. While he is busy fighting the unseen enemy, he also has to deal with the threat of federal agents who are convinced he could be dangerous if he has too much power.

That all sounds quite complicated and confusing, but once the basic concept of the new government department has been explained, it all actually focuses more (or at least as much) on the relationships between the different characters. The foundation is laid out in this book - the feisty language expert Celeste, the tech-obsessed military expert Bingo, a political advisor Lieutenant Lefebvre and the seductive Alexis Truffant, who works in the military and was involved in recruiting Garrett.

It's a fast paced novel with so much going on that it's hard to keep up at times, but this is presumably the intention of the author - Garrett and his team are in the same situation, thrown in at the deep end and left to sink or swim. The idea of the new generation of wars being played out through technology and online damage is quite believable, but Garrett does come across as a totally indestructible anti-hero. Every time someone tries to take him out, he just rises from the ashes. He's a likeable guy with a huge chip on his shoulder but a bit too damage-resistant to be completely believable.

Some plot lines aren't followed up and some characters are just left floating in the outer reaches of the action (Celeste, for example), but I presume these stories will be picked up in subsequent books. I've just checked - there is a second book in the series, The King of Fear, available as The Complete Saga or in three parts. As Drew Chapman works as a writer of movies and TV shows, I also wouldn't be at all surprised to see these books made into a fast-paced, all-action film or maybe a Netflix series.

star rating : 4/5

  • Paperback: 432 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster; Reprint edition (12 July 2016)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1476725896
  • ISBN-13: 978-1476725895
  • Product Dimensions: 14 x 2.5 x 21.3 cm

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