My goal is to eventually make my way through all of these must-read titles. These books have been around for so long and read by so many that another generic review from your average reader seems unnecessary. Instead, I thought it would be fun to take a look at what some of the experts have to say about the stories that paved the way for their own success… and how their perspective compares to my own reading experience. Today, I’m looking at Stephen Hunter’s Point of Impact.
He was one the best Marine snipers in Vietnam. Today, twenty years later, disgruntled hero of an unheroic war, all Bob Lee Swagger wants is to be left alone and to leave the killing behind. But with consummate psychological skill, a shadowy military organization seduces Bob into leaving his beloved Arkansas hills for one last mission for his country, unaware until too late that the game is rigged…
Christopher Rice praises Point of Impact for one point above all others: its ability to populate an action story with real characters. “Hunter treats his human characters as seriously as he treats his guns, and the passion with which he does so distinguishes Point of Impact from countless other thrillers in which the author displays a cold, mechanical allegiance to the weapons and cutting-edge technology his characters interact with like mindless robots.”
It’s true that interchangeable stock characters abound in the thriller genre, and Hunter does a better job than many in making his stand out and feel like real people. However, one thing that really stood out to me was that it’s only the male characters that get this treatment. There are only two women in the entire book with any significance to the plot, and neither one feels as alive as the two leading men.
And even though I did enjoy the book overall, this is clearly a guys’ novel. I read a lot of books that are mainly marketed toward men, but this one felt more loaded with testosterone than most.
Still, despite the fact that I don’t much care about war and guns, the plot and the characters grew on me, and the writing style kept me interested even before I got invested in the story. And the payoff at the end was brilliant (though I could have done without the extended denouement… it didn’t quite fit the rest of the book).
“Published in 1993, Point of Impact contained all the essential elements of a post-Cold War thriller in which monolithic villains are replaced by ferocious, covert splinter groups with origins that are unnervingly close to home.” I don’t know if I’d call it a must-read, but it was definitely a good one.
Twenty-seven down, seventy-three to go…
Next month I’ll be discussing Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein.