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Swords of Exodus

Posted by Nick Sharps On Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Been a long time! Miss me? Of course you did, what a stupid question. Well a new Larry Correia book is out and you couldn't expect me to pass up an opportunity to read/review it now could you? Another stupid question - I'm Correia's biggest fan. But, of all Larry's books DEAD SIX has probably been the one I've liked the least. That's not to say that DEAD SIX is a bad book, but I didn't consider it up to Larry's standards. It was fun and action-packed but the writing was a little rough around the edges, the collaboration between Correia and Kupari wasn't seamless, I wasn't sold on the characters, and I couldn't find any merit in either of the romantic relationships. That said, I wasn't discounting the series as the second half of the novel runs a whole lot smoother than the first. I'm quite pleased to say that SWORDS OF EXODUS by Larry Correia and Mike Kupari is infinitely better.

If you haven't read DEAD SIX the following description could be considered spoilerish. Please skip the italicized portion if this is the case.

As DEAD SIX closes Michael Valentine has been captured by the US black ops group only known as Majestic. The paramilitary force known as the Swords of Exodus want Valentine - they know the location of the secret base where he is being held but they need an expert thief to help them break in.

Lorenzo is enjoying a hard-earned retirement on a personally owned island with his girlfriend. He has left behind a life of crime and violence for love. But then Exodus comes knocking at his door with bad news. Lorenzo's brother has been kidnapped. Exodus is willing to help find him, but in return Lorenzo must free Valentine from the clutches of Majestic. 

Meanwhile, deep in former Soviet Central Asia, a warlord has risen in the power vacuum left by Big Eddie's death. In a lawless international town known as the Crossroads weapons, drugs, and slaves are trafficked under the warlord's watchful gaze. Exodus has marked the tyrant for death but assaulting such a stronghold will not be easy and soon Valentine and Lorenzo will find themselves in far deeper than ever before. 

I wasn't sold on Valentine or Lorenzo after finishing DEAD SIX. I didn't like the relationships that either character entered into or how those relationships progressed. I'm a stickler for romance as you may have noticed by now. If it's going to be done then it needs to be done well - and I just did not see that happening in the first book. I also couldn't help but grimace at the number of coincidences that had Valentine and Lorenzo bumping into each other early on in the novel. I understood the purpose and I was a fan of the concept - two diametrically opposed anti-heroes continually antagonizing each other - but after a while I found that the excuse of "coincidence wore thin."

SWORDS OF EXODUS manages to improve on both of these aspects. If you read the first book then you know what happens with Valentine's love interest. I find that this coupled with the torture he suffers at the hands of Majestic interrogation make Valentine a much more interesting character. He is a much harder man this time around and it lends credence to the mercenary personality. Another love interest pops up (to my dismay) but this one is played more subtle and slowly. It's far more complicated and that is much easier to swallow. I'm still not sold on Lorenzo's relationship but I do appreciate that it grounds him and gives him a vulnerability that he would otherwise be lacking. It's also worth nothing that the duo work better when they're on the same side, attacking a problem from different directions and with different modus operandi. The antagonism is still there (it takes no effort to believe that these two dudes dislike each other) but the plot doesn't rely on coincidence to connect their individual threads.

"If there were pots of gold at the end of rainbows, I can only assume that you'd have a lot of gold and there'd be a lot of murdered leprechauns buried in Ireland."

One of the cool things about SWORDS OF EXODUS is that our two reluctant heroes are forced to work alongside some less than scrupulous characters in order to further their goals. Anders makes an appearance and I was almost able to forget all the horrible things he did in DEAD SIX. Almost. Then there's Katarina, a truly terrifying she-devil that makes Lorenzo look like a box of kittens. Reaper is back of course, and we meet some fanatics from Exodus. As far as Correia villains go Sala Jihan, the Pale Man, leaves a little to be desired. He remains a mysterious character throughout all of SWORDS OF EXODUS and so his motivation is never really touched upon. In a way this shroud of secrecy makes Jihan even more sinister, but it's unlikely he'll (yet) be remembered as one of the top picks from Larry's rogues gallery.

The Crossroads is an extremely cool setting. It's like the Wild West - if the Wild West were set in the unforgiving mountains on the border of Russia and China. It's the sort of place where someone can be gunned down on the street and no one would bother to look twice. It's dangerous and exotic and it fits Valentine and Lorenzo like a glove. Much of the novel takes place here, though there are brief stints in the United States and a short tour of Exodus's base of operations.

Exodus is fleshed out much more this time around (as befits the title) though there are a number of mysteries surrounding the organization for the next book to explore. The same goes for Valentine, Majestic, Project Blue, and even Sala Jihan. I will say that my biggest problem of the novel might be how little is revealed in the end. There are a lot of secrets floating around and it feels as though very few of them are exposed during SWORDS OF EXODUS. It's the secrets tied to Sala Jihan that left me pondering the novel long after I finished reading it. Without saying too much it seems as though there might be some supernatural elements surrounding the Pale Man, and though this could easily be contributed to PSYOPS it still has me wondering what direction the third novel in the series will take.

SWORDS OF EXODUS is a bit of a slow burner compared to DEAD SIX but I'd hesitate to call this a bad thing. Correia and Kupari set up an epic final assault that is well worth the price of admission alone. Once again it is clear that these two authors write what they know and the action is as crisp and clear as has come to be expected. In a recent article it was suggested that Larry Correia is eligible to be one of several possible successors to the late great Tom Clancy. It's not just the action that proves this, but also the eye for technical detail, politics, and conspiracy. I'd like to add that if Correia is a potential successor than Mike Kupari certainly deserves to be credited as well. That problem I had with the collaboration in the first book? It's non-existent in SWORDS OF EXODUS. It would be difficult to find where Larry's writing stops and where Mike's starts. It is a seamless product and I commend the two for making it so. And you know what? If we're lucky the third book in the series might be Correia and Kupari's equivalent of Clancy's RED STORM RISING, what I consider to be the single best techno-thriller, military fiction book ever written.

Recommended Age: 16+
Violence: If Larry ever writes a non-violent book I'll be sure to warn you.
Profanity: A good amount.
Sex: One particularly suggestive scene but nothing explicit.

Get SWORDS OF EXODUS here.
Get the first book, DEAD SIX here.

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