Review: “Raptor: A TECH Ops Novel,” John G. Hartness

Rating: 3 out of 5

John G. Hartness’s Raptor: A TECH Ops Novel has a great premise, but some crucial failures as well. It’s quasi-military sci-fi, in that the TECH Ops squads aren’t run by the military, and not all of their members come from the military. Many do, however.

Raptor is Sergeant Sheila Hewson, late of the Marines. Actually, very late, because she got completely messed up by a bomb that also killed her friends and colleagues. She wakes up in a very private hospital only to find that she’s been given artificial legs and arms. And, oh yeah, they’re “enhanced.” She’s in charge of team Delta, which comprises Lone Star, Tank, and Scorpion. When the teams have a mission helping to guard the presidential candidates at a debate, everything goes sideways.

The spoiler-containing paragraphs at the end of this review will tell you in detail what the team messed up, but for now I’ll just say that no matter how many times people set up traps for them, it just DID NOT occur to them that any given mission could be a trap. They never learned. I was literally writing numbers in the margins next to my notes to keep track of how many traps they walked into. Every single time they were caught by surprise.

Luckily, the rest of the book is much better than that. There’s lots of “enhanced” fight sequences that are really fun. There are a few good surprises. In particular, other than failing to learn that missions could be traps, the characters had depth and development. Scorpion, though, is the old cliche of “we’re going to forcibly ‘recruit’ a criminal hacker to work for the good guys because he’s just that good.”

I love Tank in particular. He’s an ex-pro wrestler, a giant of a man, and now totally reinforced with “enhancements.” However, since he needs a very specially built chair to support his now-ridiculous weight, how come he never breaks through a floor? Or breaks a seat in a car? Or leans into a wall and goes right through? I do love the fact that they finally came up with a decent, makes-sense reason for a character to have a sword in this day and age (Tank can’t hit the broad side of a barn with a gun), and he isn’t even Asian. I will also say that there’s a gay character who isn’t a stereotype of a gay character, which is great.

Content note for torture (some on-page and a lot more off), some brief racism (mostly Scorpion trying to annoy the hell out of a Hispanic character, Lone Star), and combat and death. Overall this is a fun story, but I just couldn’t stop shaking my head at the frequency with which the characters blithely walked into traps.

SPOILER WARNING: The traps. Oh, my god, the traps. Okay, so the first mission wasn’t obviously a trap except in retrospect, and anyone can fall for a trap once or twice. But then they raid a compound of white supremacists after figuring out who the first bad guys are connected to, and it doesn’t occur to them to even mention that it might be another trap. (Trap two.) Next they rush off to deal with a threat to a mall, and it still doesn’t occur to them to wonder if it could be a trap. (Trap three.) When they then follow the trail back to a house, and one of their members who is supposed to be all smart and stuff goes walking through the strangely quiet interior and casually opens the one room that seems to have a light on, they still hadn’t anticipated that there might be a trap (dammit, Whisper’s smarter than that). (Trap four.) The next place that Lone Star uses as a hideout gets raided by SWAT who somehow found out where they were; it didn’t start out as a trap, so I’ll only declare that to be half a trap. (Trap 4.5.)

Next they raid a warehouse belonging to the bad guys, and even when the front door is unlocked the idea that it might be a trap never comes to them. I call this an “almost” though, since, miracle of miracles, it wasn’t a trap. “Almost two” is when the team heads back to their make-do safehouse and don’t consider that it could be a trap until they’re only a block away. Next they try to rescue Tank, who got captured, and once again, it doesn’t occur to them that the long trip the authorities are taking to transfer Tank to a new facility could be a trap. (We’re up to 5.5 traps and 2 almosts at the end, and they never did learn their lesson.) END SPOILERS

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