By Order of the President by W.E.B. Griffin
Publisher: Jove Books
Date: Jan. 2006
Page Count: 608
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When a leased Boeing 727 is violently hijacked from Angola and flown to parts unknown, the President turns to an outsider--Major Carlos Guillermo Castillo--for answers. A pilot, West Point graduate, and veteran of Desert Storm, Castillo has a sharp eye for the facts--and the truth behind them. In Africa, he is helped and hindered by unexpected allies and ruthless enemies, and begins to untangle a plot of horrific dimensions--a plot that, unless Castillo acts quickly, will end very, very badly.
This is a novel of great contradictions. FIrst of all, it promises "plenty of action" on the back cover, but the action sequences are few and far between, and they're described so clinically that they end up having little impact. And the terrorist plot at the center of the novel is completely ludicrous &mdash which isn't necessarily a flaw; a terrorist plot to explode a shrapnel-filled blimp over the Super Bowl is pretty ludicrous too, yet Black Sunday is one of the all-time classics of the genre — but Griffin robs it of any sense of danger by having the characters comment repeatedly on how silly it is.
The biggest problem is with the protagonist, Major Castillo. He's even more over-the-top wonderful than the back cover would have you believe. He's not just a pilot, he can fly everything from a Huey to a Boing 727. He's not just a West Point grad, he's got Special Forces training too. He's not just a veteran of Desert Storm, he also received a combat decoration for mounting a risky mission (against orders) to rescue a fellow soldier. Also: he speaks seven langauges; he's the son of a posthumous Medal of Honor winner; he's independently wealthy and ruggedly handsome; he's simultaneously a major in the U.S. Army, top personal aide to the Secretary of Homeland Security, and a supervisory special agent in the Secret Service; countless beautiful women want to have sex with him; and he's the lifelong friend and protege of the commanding general of the US Army Central Command. And once he made a woman climax just by pointing at her and saying, "boo-yah." Wait, no, that was Chuck Norris.
Anyway, for all his mighty powers and abilities, Castillo pretty much does nothing. He flies all over the world to meet with CIA operatives and Russian arms dealers and counter-terrorism specialists and the commanding general of Delta Force, who in turn do all the actual work of tracking down the missing airplane. Castillo is basically a glorified project manager. Which, I suppose, is sort of the point Griffin is trying to make. In an environment where the various intelligence agencies refuse to share information and are as interested in covering their asses as in getting the job done, maybe you need someone like Castillo to get things moving. That doesn't make it any less ridiculous, though.