Athabasca

This is turning out to be the year of the re-reads, mostly because of that fateful trip to The Brown Elephant a few months ago. This is another book I recall finishing years ago and saying, “meh.” Actually, I didn’t say that exact word because it hadn’t been invented yet. But I’m sure you get the picture. You probably also think I’m cool because of my occasional exploration of The Urban Dictionary. Thanks.

I spent my youth wanting to like Alistair MacLean novels. Many of his books were made into movies my brother and I loved, like Bear Island and Force 10 from Navarone, so I figured the books would be just as great. But as a youngster, I struggled through Athabasca, Goodbye California, and Seawitch before eventually giving up. After awhile, I settled into Robert Ludlum as my favorite thriller writer and compared every book to Ludlum’s, jarring, macho, fast-paced stories.

Upon the second reading, I’m mildly surprised at how much I liked Athabasca. It started out rather slow but picked up markedly in the second half, and the last few chapters flew at a breakneck pace. The characters were not very deep, but the good people were likable and the bad guys were cruel.

It’s as much a mystery/crime novel as a thriller I think. It nicely builds in aspects of both for a fine reading experience. It has a classic investigation by a group of outsiders and builds up to a big unveiling of the guilty parties. But it also has some tight action scenes, including a near death experience and a tower assault.

I like the idea of Alistair MacLean. His writing spans a long period of time and there seems to be a lot of variability in his subject matter. I think I’ll grab one of his war novels next, like Where Eagles Dare or Guns of Navarone.