Fortress by Andy McNab, 2014, Trade Paperback from Library, 384p.
5 out of 5 Stars
It is rare that I go into a novel expecting an enjoyable, but somewhat mindless, thrill ride and end up walking away with a social message and political argument. Andy McNab’s Fortress was exactly that sort of surprising – as the second book in the Tom Buckingham series I was expecting more of the first book – Red Notice – but was gifted with so much more. I won’t go into too much detail because I don’t want to be the bearer of bad spoilers.
Fortress deals very adeptly with issues such as structural racism and the mood of the people and that mood’s effect on politics and immigration policy. There is so much more at stake here, and it was refreshing change from the crushing amount of Islamic terrorism is our main enemy and must be stopped that usually is the backbone of these stories – everyone in this novel operates in grey areas, and the motivations of all the characters – are explored, and with more authenticity than providing a flimsy backstory of fundamentalism as evil.
Tom Buckingham is an interesting creation – a SAS squaddie who has a silver spoon stuck in his mouth and trying to deal with the many difficulties life throws his way. When he’s in soldier mode he is brilliant and resourceful, but when he is navigating his personal life, it’s as if he set off on a cross country trek with no compass or maps. Especially awesome is his awkward and stilted relationship with his father, which we get to explore more in Fortress.
Tom’s love interest, Delphine, is in my opinion poorly constructed and fickle, the clichéd woman who can’t accept her partners’ life choices. Don’t get me wrong, I would have left Tom many moons ago, but the relationship seems to purely exist to build emotional turmoil in Tom and it doesn’t execute this goal. This is such a minor gripe, I do love this book and Delphine has such a small role in this novel, that it didn’t take away from my enjoyment.
I feel like this series is a new direction for McNab, I’ve read many of his previous novels, the Nick Stone series, which are primarily military based, following an action man around the world and find they can be quite inaccessible to readers not familiar to war fiction and the jargon – McNab usually delights in using technical names and waxing lyrical for a page or two about the benefits, weaknesses and operation of certain weaponry and tactics. The Tom Buckingham series reads more like a thriller novel than military fiction – it’s use of jargon is less and it follows many different POV’s driving to the conclusion. There is a focus on politics and international espionage, and there is little involvement with actual military units. I would recommend that new readers of McNab start with the Tom Buckingham series and then try the Nick Stone series – which are excellent but more straight up action reads.
The next book in the Tom Buckingham series, State of Emergency, comes out May 21, and I have already preordered, because Fortress left quite a few loose ends that are going to make for an excellent next instalment.