Fallout, Kevin J. Anderson and Doug Beason,

Ace, 1997, 306 pages, C$7.99 mmpb, ISBN 0-441-00425-3

Craig Kreident is back!

The High-tech FBI special agent, after a moderately entertaining debut in Virtual Destruction, makes a stronger appearance in Fallout, the second is what will probably become a series comparable to Cussler’s “Dirk Pitt” sequence.

This time around, the plot doesn’t hinge around virtual reality, or mentally deficient nuclear workers. Instead, Anderson and Beason takes us deep into two of America’s most secret installations: The Nevada Nuclear Test Site and Area 51, the Air Force’s shadowy research installation.

This book also has a different tone that the first tome: While a murder still has to be solved, Kreident must now deal with a right-wing extremist terrorist group: The book opens with the FBI trying to prevent an explosion at the Hoover dam. The result is a techno-thriller much closer to “thriller” than to the mystery genre.

Fallout is more exciting, more interesting, and (if possible) readable in even less time than Virtual Destruction, which was already quite a page-turner.

Otherwise, character development is only adequate, at the exception of Kreident-subordinate agent Goldfarb, which figures prominently in a few action sequences. Despite everything, Kreident remains likable, and it’s a joy to root for government guys once in a while.

This is no surprise, since both authors have worked in government offices (Beason is an Air Force officer). Jabs at INDEPENDENCE DAY are thrown, and other UFO-freaks beliefs are equally skewered. The background has a distinctive “authentic” feel to it, which marks a nice change to the usually unbelievable thriller setups.

On the other hand, the final terrorist motivation is quite laughable. This is probably intentional by Beason and Anderson, but any thriller fan knows that plausibility has a quality of its own. Terrorist motivation is not the only disappointing aspect of the finale: Paige Mitchell (the almost-girlfriend character) is also terribly passive, falling back too easily in the so despicable “helpless female” role. However, the other aspects of the resolution are suitably well-handled, and suspense runs fairly high.

Fallout would make an interesting movie, but is probably too smart for that. It remains to be seen whether the next volumes of the series will manage to be as interesting as this one. Especially fascinating is the problem of being able to involve Paige Mitchell in every Craig Kreident investigation. That should be interesting to watch.

Even when considered absolutely, and not only in comparison with its predecessor, Fallout fares pretty well. It had the required action, stupid mistakes, evil terrorist groups and other hallmarks of the genre. Since it’s readable in a blink, it might be a better choice to loan it at the library rather than buy it full-price.

Craig Kreident can come back any time he likes.

* * *

Briefly: Anderson and Beason’s Ill Wind is even better, something predictable given the catastrophic and post-catastrophic theme of the book (this time: anti-polymer microbes ravage the world’s oil and plastics) and the fact that it’s a one-shot novel. Points given for realistic science, clean prose and likable characters. I’ll quibble that the novel ends too soon (Sequel possible? Oh no!) for any sense of durable consequences. Good reading for fans of the sub-genre and/or the authors.

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