I received the publisher's e-ARC of Jonathan Wood's No Hero from netgalley.
Publication date: ~19 July 2011
Publisher: Night Shade Books
From the publisher: "What would Kurt Russell do?" Oxford police detective Arthur Wallace asks himself that question a lot. Because Arthur is no hero. He's a good cop, but prefers that action and heroics remain on the screen, safely performed by professionals. But then, secretive government agency MI12 [MI37] comes calling, hoping to recruit Arthur in their struggle against the tentacled horrors from another dimension known as the Progeny. But Arthur is NO HERO! Can an everyman stand against sanity-ripping cosmic horrors?"
I really liked the first-person non-hero, Arthur Wallace. Jonathan Wood has written this character with style and personality that grabs the reader from the opening page. The supporting cast are also well written, from the loquacious science guy to the steampunk cyber authority, and the "Let's stick to business" leader of MI37. No Hero is an action Sci Fi adventure akin to the movies Men in Black and, Arthur's favorite, Big Trouble in Little China. In No Hero the aliens are seeping through from another reality—an updated version of the usual "world is doomed" scenario. This is also a popular theme in SF right now, with true science speculating on different universe dimensions with different physical properties. The idea is that our universe has a membrane that secludes us from different entities and physics.
I especially like Wallace's continual shock that he is in a real "save the world" situation—sometimes he is exhilarated, but most often is aghast at his position in it all. His frustration at not really knowing what is happening is palpable. The whole idea of another dimension is as alien to him as the aliens.
But, there were story problems—or actually, elements in action adventures that usually gripe me. Jonathan Wood wrote from the accepted rules of the genre and did a fine job, but I am always bummed by the ineffective "good guys" who have limited skills, power, etc. while the "bad guys" (in this case the Progeny) seem invincible. I suppose this is to get the reader to cheer for the underdog. I could accept the underdog role of Wallace and his MI37 team, but the supposed Keepers of the Status Quo Between Realities (the Dreamers) were a bunch of duffs. And while Wallace was frustrated with inadequate information, the final action scenes left me frustrated with the continual deflection of any real answers or presentation of what was really happening. I still can't figure why the Dreamers were so ineffective. Nor could I figure out how people like The Sheilas (and a few others) came to be.
The potential for further books with Arthur Wallace and MI37 fighting anomalies of the universe is clearly set up, and for all that I don't often like some of the devices of this genre, I know I'll grab the next Wood books and enjoy the action and unique situations.