Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Book Review: "The Nowhere Man" by Gregg Hurwitz

It's an indication of how many books I read last year that while Gregg Hurwitz's Orphan X, the first novel in his Evan Smoak series, made my list of the best books I read in 2016, I never got around to reading the second book, The Nowhere Man, until now, despite the fact that it came out in early 2017. There's even a third book out. I have to catch up!!

The Nowhere Man is a little bit uneven, so it's not quite as good as its predecessor. But when the book clicks, as it does in places and then consistently in the last third or so, you realize what a kick-ass character Evan Smoak is, and that Hurwitz can write both action scenes that crackle as well as scenes which deliver real emotion.

When Evan Smoak (not his real name) was young, a man rescued him from a troubled life and he trained Evan how to kill. When he got older he became the Nowhere Man, the last resort for a person in desperate trouble. No one knows who the Nowhere Man is, but they know if they call him, he will help rescue them from a seemingly helpless situation.

A call from a teenage girl in a desperate situation leads him to the existence of a sex trafficking operation, which abducts vulnerable young women and sends them into the hands of nefarious characters. As usual, Smoak works to cut the operation off at its knees, but as he tries to determine just how deep its roots are, he is abducted by an utterly unanticipated nemesis, who wants something from Evan, and will stop at nothing to get it.

Suddenly, Evan finds himself captured in an unknown location, under guard by a number of trigger-happy mercenaries, and at the mercy of a sadistic, opportunistic individual with unlimited resources and a real inferiority complex. His captors think they've got the best of Evan, but they don't understand just whom they're dealing with—but outsmarting this clan will push Evan to his very limits, physically and intellectually.

"What did it say about him that he was so easily put back together? He'd long thought that it was a positive attribute, a testament to his durability, but now it felt artificial, unhuman. He was rebuildable, a snap-together Lego toy."

As Evan plots his escape, he is haunted by the need to rescue two different people, and he has his own visions of his surrogate father figure, whose death Evan feels responsible for. And then he realizes that those who hold him captive aren't the only enemies he'll have to defeat.

There are some great twists and turns in this book, and I just love Evan's resourcefulness, and the life he has built for himself, even though it is lonely. There were some fight scenes that literally had my heart pumping as I was amazed at the way he and his enemies kept turning the situation. But Hurwitz also showed his ability to create introspective and poignant moments as well, which gave the book—and its characters—real depth.

Parts of the plot really require you suspend your disbelief, which isn't necessarily a bad thing, but I kept hoping that Hurwitz wasn't going to get totally bizarre with the story. (Close, but not quite.) My main criticism is that I love Evan when he is doing what he does best—rescuing those in need and making those responsible pay. Given that he spends a significant part of this book captured (although slowly enacting his revenge), it tended to dull my enthusiasm after a time.

If you're looking for a great series, pick up Orphan X and prepare to be blown away. The Nowhere Man is definitely worth a read as well, and I'll need to check out the third book in this series (which I've heard is fantastic) pretty soon. There's lots of violence, so those who don't enjoy that should steer clear, but if you're okay with fictionalized violence, get ready for your pulse to rise!!

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