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If the First Rule is to write what you know, then second by a bee’s dick must be this: you need to grab a reader by the detestables on page one.  But because I am a generous despot, I’ll extend that to page fifty.  More than generous!  So, does ‘Black Mountain’ by Australian author Greig Beck do this?  Read on.

This is number four in the ‘Arcadian’ series, and it shows: the assumed knowledge factor is very high.  The first fifty pages are a jumble of subplots.  You don’t meet the protagonist, super-soldier Alex Hunter, until page 53, but you do meet several people who know the man, including super-hot ninja assassin ultimate warrior badass soldier babe Adira, who mystifyingly ‘screamed in horror’ at seeing her beau shot with tranquilliser darts, notwithstanding she mechanically slaughtered half a dozen plotting terrorist evil-doers only a few pages earlier.

For devotees of the series (well reviewed generally), I wonder if the meme ‘when everyone’s super, no-one is’ rings as loud in their ears as it does in mine.  For the same reason I prefer Batman over Superman, the little I’ve seen of (or heard about) super-soldier Alex Hunter might just be enough.  Bookshelves across the universe are groaning with Alex Hunters.  By the end of Bryce Courtenay’s ‘Power of One’ we were all a little sick of the guy, weren’t we.  Go on, admit it.  I haven’t even really met super-soldier Alex Hunter yet, and I already feel that nasty tickle in my throat.

I don’t know how Beck intends to weave the main ‘ancient Apallachian evil’ thread into the military sci-fi subplots, and maybe the eventual denouement would have been interesting, but I will never find out.  Lots of shooting, I imagine, daring escapes, improbable rescues, et cetera.  I can picture super-soldier Alex Hunter going mano a mano with the ultimate evil, busting some super-soldier moves before collapsing, spent, against his super-hot ninja assassin ultimate warrior badass soldier babe Adira’s ‘ample bosom’ (p37).

I can’t be too critical.  I’ve only read the first 50 pages.  But does ‘Black Mountain’  satisfy the Second Law?  For a newcomer to the series, no it does not. For someone who’s followed the exploits of our ubiquitous super-soldier Alex Hunter through three preceding novels, I’d imagine that would be a rousing ‘Hell yeah!’  Good work Mister Beck garnering such a devoted following.

Great to see an Aussie out there kicking goals.

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