3 1/2 stars out of 5
When I get a request to read and review a book, as happened with this one, I have two concerns - the first of which is whether or not it will be written well enough that it's not a waste of time. Encountering errors in grammar, spelling and/or punctuation is a major turn-off; IMHO, anyone who can't muster up pretty close to perfection in that department has zero right to call him- or herself a writer.
The second, of course, is content: What's the story about? In this case, it touches a topic close to home - journalism and the power of the press. After spending a good part of my working life in that industry (albeit mostly at a for-business-only newspaper and a writer/editor of nonfiction), I have a long-standing personal interest in the subject. So it was that my answer to the request was, "Bring it on!"
The Foundation for a New America, which has loads of pull in Washington, D.C., is working behind the scenes to spark a war between the United States and China. Terrorist attacks are put in place, and several Foundation members - including the particularly nasty Michelle Dominique - are putting the wheels in motion that will get them elected to Congressional seats. As deputy director of the Foundation, she wields considerable power - and she doesn't hesitate to do whatever it takes to bribe, coerce, threaten and even kill to get what she wants.
What she wants includes gaining control of EMCorp, a huge media conglomerate headed by the elderly iron-fisted Ernest McDowell (think Tea Party meets Rupert Murdock). I don't know about you, but the mere thought that either of them could attain the kind of power suggested here scares the bejesus out of me, so thriller-wise, it was off to a good start.
McDowell happens to be the boss of Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Jack Emery, the "hero" of the story. He and a co-worker are assigned as embedded reporters on the George Washington, a warship stationed off the coast of China for the purpose of keeping a modicum of peace between China and Taiwan. But as the tension escalates, the ship is attacked and sunk - and Jack and his friend are captured by the Chinese. I won't offer any details, but since this is supposed to be the first in a series featuring the journalist, I don't think I'm spoiling anything by noting that Jack lives to tell about the experience.
Meanwhile, back at the ranch, Michelle issues sufficient threats to scare the crusty McDowell into ordering all his newspapers to change the slant of coverage to fit the goals of the Foundation, and Michelle doubles her efforts to gain control of the EMCorp board and dispose of anyone who opposes her or knows too much. Bodies start to pile up, Jack figures out what's going on and who's behind it, and the chase is on.
Happily from a technical standpoint, the writing is consistently good throughout. I did notice a word missing here and there; one character was asked, "How're you going?" instead of "How're you doing?" And, I reached for my red pencil when I read that "...the hospital had flexed their muscles..." Not likely; a hospital is an inanimate object and has no such capability.
The plot was intriguing and relatively solid as well, although for the rest of my natural life I'll wonder what the bleep happened to that USB drive Jack wedged in a bar seat (if you want to know why, read the book). And here's another plus: Apparently, the author knows his single-malt Scotch. Early on, one of the characters enjoyed a glass of Laphroaig.
The Foundation by Steve P. Vincent (Momentum, September 2014); 266 pp.