Reader Review: Pandora’s Succession [#1] – Russell Brooks

Pandora’s Succession [#1]: ★★★

I was offered a free digital copy of this book by Russell Brooks in return for an honest review. When reading through the provided synopsis in the review request, I had suspected that the story was going to be quite thrilling and generally rather riveting. Even though the story is based around a fictional premise, it’s quite a real threat at the same time – especially when you consider the advancements that technology and science have made in the last couple decades. Admittedly, I didn’t think it was all that much of an original premise at first because it has been looked into and done before. Though I wanted to see how this book had been constructed and how it has it’s own specific take on the premise, so I gave it a shot despite being hesitant of the potential repetition it may hold.

The book is focused on Ridley Fox – a CIA operative who is completely devoted to putting a stop to the weapons association ‘The Arms Of Ares’ who also caused his fiancées death. Whilst following a lead on the company, he makes the discovery that they have produced a biochemical weapon called Pandora which they plan to release into the Earth’s atmosphere. With the rest of humanity under the threat of being completely wiped out by this chemical compound, Fox and an old flame find themselves rushing against the clock to stop the release of Pandora before it’s too late.

The introduction to the book evidently showcases a tense situation, which, in turn, draws the reader’s attention into the story. The scenario doesn’t take a long time to get ‘up and running’ and the scene does indeed provide a lot of information and detail. This generally makes it very intriguing for the audience, which is nice as it captivates the reader’s attention and makes the book seem interesting from the very start. As the narrative and the plot continues, the description remains involved and well-developed. The book has quite obviously constructed good visualisation as well, which transports the reader into the scene and makes them feel as if they’re more involved.

As he was introduced, I found that I didn’t really like the main character – he didn’t appeal to me as a protagonist. The reason for this is that I felt like he was written in the sense that he was trying to come across as ‘too macho’. He had a sense of a superiority complex that he brought to the scenes and the way that he was portrayed/in the fashion that he presented himself, which generally worked to get on my nerves fairly quickly. Along with this, some of the general characterisations seems as if it’s been forced to fit into typical tropes and cliches, which makes the characters feel more two-dimensional. When the characters were first introduced, they didn’t feel as if they were developed personally – which made them appear more ‘wooden’. However, this being said, I did find that, as the story progresses, the characters do become more developed as more details are explored regarding their lives and their backgrounds. Some of the characters are definitely more explored than others, so the side characters do occasionally feel like ‘fillers’ for the story. As a main character, Fox does become more interesting as his past is further hinted at. This also means that the reader is more inclined to keep reading to explore his story and what’s happened in his past to make him have a harder demeanour, which also answers questions as to why he acts how he does.

One of the biggest elements of the novel itself was the action that’s portrayed throughout the narrative. I personally thought that the action was well-written and it was immersive – I enjoyed the varying pace of the novel. With faster scenes, the action felt more immersive and maintained my attention very easily. Though, despite being able to easily hold my interest, the action did seem to be based on typical cliches and tropes that can also be found throughout the genre in general. Some of the moves that the characters pull feel too ‘planned out’ in a sense and, in turn, this takes away from the general realism of the scenarios. All in all, though, I would say that the action is definitely well-developed and has been constructed with the flow of the plot in line. It’s riveting and maintains the interest of the audience, so it does well to put the reader in into the scenes themselves rather than letting them feel as if they’re purely being a spectator.

As the structure of the novel becomes more evident to focus on a variety of character perspectives and storylines, you do generally get a better idea of the premise and what’s happening in the plot. The parallel character narratives do indeed do well to showcase how the characters come to interact with each other and the parts that they play in the various scenes. Though I also found that, at points during the book, the conflicting storylines get difficult to follow and occasionally this can become confusing for the audience. If the reader gets confused, then they’re less likely to be able to follow the story and they’re going to lose their interest fairly quickly. I think one of the reasons for this is down to the fact that there are so many different characters that are indeed explored during the storyline and so sometimes the reader can get quite overwhelmed in attempting to keep track of everything happening at once. This is only occasionally though – it’s not a problem that I had throughout the entirety of the book as I was able to grasp the storyline better as the characters began to interact with each other more directly.

An element of the book that I wasn’t really able to connect to was the introduction of the romantic subplot between the main character and his old flame. I felt that, once again, the romance was based on genre ‘cliches’ and it generally came across in a rather ‘cheesy’ manner which I didn’t enjoy. Though this wasn’t expanded on enough for it to cause me to lose interest in the novel, but it did feel like it was unnecessary overall. I have referenced the point of ‘genre cliches’ quite a lot throughout this review, and that’s because I truly believe that the novel was written with a lot of ideas that are based on the typical genre stereotypes that are commonly seen throughout these types of concepts and plots. Therefore, some of the story was predictable – the points in the story that were meant to act as ‘shock points’ weren’t all that surprising and didn’t really take the audience off guard either. That being said, I found that the idea does have original aspects to it, even though a lot of it is based on concepts that have already been done and explored. The idea of a drug threatening humanity isn’t new, but the construction of the drug itself in the book is original which is rather refreshing to explore.

Throughout the book itself, the pacing is well maintained. I found that it wasn’t slow enough to lose the interest of the audience, and it wasn’t too fast to be completely overwhelming. As I mentioned earlier, the pacing varies as the action is introduced, but that creates a nice tone for the narrative. It’s rather easy for the audience to get lost in the story and feel like they are indeed experiencing it to some deeper extent, which is further enhanced they’re a fan of the genre usually. The ending nicely brings the book to a close – it feels like the story has been concluded well and it has been ‘rounded off’ in a way that doesn’t make the audience feel as if they’re left with unanswered questions.

As an additional point, it was nice to see South Africa featured at the very end. As a South African, though, I can’t say how well or how effective the authorities would be in that type of situation.

To put it simply; I would say that I was correct in being hesitant to read the book due to the fact that it’s been based on an idea that is constantly returned to. However, the author takes the idea and makes it his own – he develops the world and the premise in a way that still feels new and immerses the audience into the narrative. Even though there is a lot of typical genre cliches which occasionally make the book feel unpredictable, it does do rather well to effectively maintain the attention of the audience. The characters aren’t always likeable and, at certain points, the structure of the book gets confusing, but this isn’t so much to the extent that it throws the reader completely off track. In general, it’s a somewhat easy read with well-written, riveting action with a well-rounded storyline.

Once again, I just want to thank Russell Brooks for getting in contact with me and offering me the opportunity to read the book! It’s been great to work with you and I look forward to your future works.

Thanks for reading this short review and I’ll write you later. 

If you’re a fan of crime thrillers that will make you think about the future of our own reality and the threats that science may impose, then you should explore this story further.

If you just want a read that’s going to throw good action at you and you’re not one to get bored of repeated cliches, then give this story a look – you may find it very much to your liking.

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