Thursday, October 27, 2005

BOOK REVIEW: A Gentleman's Game

I have been a fan of Tara Chace since I picked up the first issue of Queen & Country back in 2001. My one complaint about the series is that it seemed to have an erratic release schedule that, combined with a few other factors, caused my local comic shop to miss ordering about half the issues as they came out. This meant that Queen & Country was a feast or famine kind of thing for me, based on when I was able to hit the Houston comic shops and get caught up on missing issues. This also meant that when I was not able to find any issues after #28 (released in November 2004) I was not terribly surprised. I figured that usual suspects were selling out and I would have to eventually put together an order from an online dealer to fill in the gaps. Imagine my surprise when I read something about a Queen & Country novel. Now I was aware that Greg Rucka was a successful novelist, and I had even picked up one of his Atticus Kodiak novels but I never made it past the first chapter (which, by the way, is no commentary on the novel itself, I am just easily distracted) therefore I was not on the lookout for his latest literary endeavor. I eventually remembered the tidbit about the novel while searching for a trade paperback version of THE CONSTANT GARDENER (my review is here) and lo and behold I found a copy of A GENTLEMAN’S GAME and then promptly read it before anything else.

I thoroughly enjoyed A GENTLEMAN’S GAME. It had all the crunchy goodness of Queen & Country while being a more engaging way to encounter the characters. I enjoy comics, but sometimes the episodic nature of a 22-page book is not the best format to work in. Rucka made the wise, and I imagine not too difficult, choice to assume his readers would not be familiar with Tara Chace or any of the supporting characters, and thus spends some time introducing her, Paul Crocker, and the rest of the SIS Special Section to the reader, however he does so without making a fan of the comics feel disconnected from the story. There was never a point during these expository scenes that I wanted to flip ahead to get to the action, but I am getting ahead of myself here.

A GENTLEMAN’S GAME begins with an attack on the London subway system that is prescient of the London attacks earlier this year. In Rucka’s world the terrorists are MUCH more effective in their initial attacks and it is decided that in retribution for the attacks, the spiritual leader of the terrorists and one of the leaders of the guilty terrorists will be assassinated. This is what Tara Chace adrenaline junkie and Minder One in Her Majesty’s SIS Special Section does very well. She is thusly drawn in to a sprawling plot involving Mossad, the CIA, and not a little in-fighting between the domestic and foreign branches of the British government. Then something goes wrong.

This is all of the plot I can share with you without putting what I would consider spoilers in the review. As I said, this was an excellent read and I really feel that Queen & Country works better in novel form than it does in comic book form. Having said that, I would encourage anyone who reads and enjoys A GENTLEMAN’S GAME to pick up the comics as well as hit the bookstores on October 25th when the second Queen & Country novel, PRIVATE WARS, is released.

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