The Legend of Banzai Maguire
The Legend of Banzai Maguire is exactly the kind of futuristic I’m always looking for but seldom find. The first in a five-part, multi-author series (with the fifth book also to be penned by Grant), it’s an action-adventure tale set on Earth in the year 2176.
The story opens in 2006. While flying a peacekeeping mission over North Korea, Air Force pilot Bree “Banzai” Maguire is suddenly shot down by a missile from the ground. Instead of the North Korean troops she expected, she finds herself captured by a mad scientist. He shot her down to use her in his experiments, intending to let the North Korean government take the blame for her disappearance. Before she can fight back, he puts her into stasis in a cryopod, frozen in time.
In the year 2176, the world is a very different place. The United States may not exist, but the Navy SEALs do, of course. Ty Armstrong is a SEAL commander, as well as something of a treasure hunter. One elusive treasure is a personal obsession for him. Banzai Maguire is a legend, one who has fascinated him for years. She was never found after her mysterious disappearance. His quest to find her remains takes him into enemy territory and to the discovery of the woman herself.
Banzai wakes up to find everything she knew is gone. The world seems to be a peaceful place, but there are still tensions simmering beneath the surface. Soon she has to wonder if the Shangri-La she wakes up in is really paradise, or a beautiful prison she has to escape.
Susan Grant sets up what looks like a great series, while telling a fast-paced action tale. The book does get off to a somewhat slow start, particularly the section with Banzai running through the North Korean countryside before her capture by the mad scientist. The story doesn’t move to the 22nd Century until the beginning of the fifth chapter, which seems a little late since that’s where all the interesting stuff takes place. Once it gets there, though, the plot takes off and never lets up.
I’m always intrigued by visions of our world in the future, and this book sets up a fascinating view of one of those utopias where things may not have changed for the better. Wars have been fought, truces have been formed, plagues have struck. The planet is a little recognizable, but also significantly different enough that neither the heroine nor the reader knows exactly which side to trust. It’s really neat, and most importantly, never confusing, as the author establishes this world and really gives the reader a sense of who the players are and what’s going on.
Bree and Ty are appealing characters, a kick-ass heroine and a tough hero. Bree is strong, capable and smart, with just a little bit of angst added (unnecessarily) to make her more human, though it’s not overblown enough to be annoying. Ty combines military strength with the earthy appeal of a treasure hunter. They’re cool characters perfectly fitting a cool story. To be sure, it’s a story that’s heavier on plot and action than on romance, which may bother readers who want it the other way around, but it really doesn’t matter when the story is this fast and compelling. The plot zips along as Bree explores this strange new world in which she finds herself. It combines a perfect blend of character, an unfolding sense of mystery, good action, suspenseful moments, and perhaps best of all, bursts of humor that pop up at all the right moments. One particularly nice touch is that it’s hard to tell whether the antagonist character is a traditional villain or not. There is a character standing between Bree and Ty, but is he really a bad guy? Is he lying to Bree, or does he actually believe what he’s telling her? And is it true? There’s really no way of telling for most, if not all, of the book, which makes the proceedings that much more interesting and suspenseful.
In true serial fashion, the story leaves a lot of questions unanswered and the ending open, sending its characters off to future adventures. This book does exactly what it’s supposed to: building a fascinating new world, telling an exciting story in its own right, and whetting readers’ appetites for the rest of the series. The saga of 2176 continues next month with Day of Fire by Kathleen Nance. I’ll definitely be along for the ride.