LONGITUDE LOST Review - Warped Factor - Words in the Key of Geek.

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Matthew Kresal gest lost in one of the best techno-thrillers of our time.

The thriller genre feels quite crowded these days. Indeed, authors new and old are vying for the attention of readers, often trading in gunplay and action sequences at the expense of plot or baring some resemblance to reality. Few writers have quite had the knack of being able to juggle action and story quite as well as Payne Harrison, who exploded on the scene with his bestselling late Cold War space shuttle hijacking tale Storming Intrepid thirty years ago. His latest thriller, 2019's Longitude Lost, proves that he is still at the top of his game.

As the cover artwork may attest, this isn't your typical thriller. High up in the Karakoram Mountains, lies a Second World War-era American warship. Something that, by definition, has no business being there. When a secret group inside the Pentagon goes to investigate, they discover a trail of people and events that stretch back not just to that long-ago conflict but right into the present. Something involving some truly incredible technology and possibilities. Indeed, readers aware of various urban legends and conspiracy theories from the period might well be able to foresee where things are going ahead of anyone else. The result is perhaps on the borderline of being science fiction, and the sort of thing that you wouldn't normally expect to find inside this sort of thriller. Is that a bad thing?

Most definitely not, as Harrison is putting the "techno" back in "techno-thriller. As he has done throughout his previous work, Harrison grounds the incredible in a cloak of realism. From tech his characters use to office politics and the occasional tidbit of supporting characters home lives, Harrison grounds his story in as much reality as possible. He also takes readers on something of a journey into the secret worlds where science, government, and military intersect, where the terms "black budget' and "need to know" reign supreme. It's that journey, and the details he sprinkles of it in the novel, that goes a long way to making the seemingly outlandish seem plausible under the circumstances.

It also helps that he can write good action sequences. From mountaineering to a defection in Switzerland, and infiltrating secret facilities, Harrison combines the technical details of Tom Clancy with the old school thrills of Alistair MacLean. His sense of both pace and tension goes a long way to making those sequences work, offering a cinematic eye in prose form. Indeed, chapter twelve, in which our heroes escape Russia while under hot pursuit both in the air and below the sea, is one of the best pieces of sustained action writing I've encountered in recent memory. If excitement is what you want, then the action sequences here will be right up your alley.

As a work of crossed genres, Longitude Lost is a heck of a read. Combining elements of science fiction with the thriller genre, Harrison creates an immensely readable tale that works on multiple levels while also telling a tense and engaging story. In doing so, Harrison reminds readers why he was a master of creating what you might consider the thinking person's action thriller.

If you're looking for some brains to go with your whiz-bang, you could do a lot worse than give this a read.

Matthew lives in North Alabama where he's a nerd, doesn't have a southern accent and isn't a Republican. He's a host of both the Big Finish centric Stories From The Vortex podcast and the 20mb Doctor Who Podcast. You can read more of his writing at his blog and at The Terrible Zodin fanzine, amongst other places. 

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