07 July 2012

Unnatural forces

C. J. Box and friend
Our family book pusher visited again and dropped another book in my lap. It was C. J. Box's latest, Force of Nature. I have really enjoyed reading some of Box's books and others I have decided not to even begin. Old Charles James Box knows how to write adventure and action and the tension and fear that lead up to scenes of murder and mayhem. I've learned not to read them in the late evening, when I usually read. Even if the action is all on the pages and in my head, the adrenaline hits my bloodstream and keeps me awake.

Force of Nature is no exception, but it wasn't threatening enough to keep me from reading it in a few afternoons. The main characters are the usual cast: Wyoming game ranger Joe Pickett and his family and mysterious recluse Nate Romanowski. It's set in fictional Twelve Sleep county of northern Wyoming (probably near the real towns of Worland and Ten Sleep, about half way between Yellowstone National Park and the Black Hills of South Dakota). There are beautiful, rugged mountains, dry prairies, and small streams. There would be a lot for a game ranger to do, so I don't think a ranger would have time to mess around with things the local sheriff or the FBI would take charge of. Joe Pickett finds the time, especially when his friend Nate is involved. No wonder he's often in hot water with his penny-pinching Wyoming bosses.

Nate's up to his neck in this story. He's a former Army special forces guy who was involved in black ops. He deals with his PTSD by living off the grid and acting as a law unto himself. One of his former commanders is trying to cover up things that only Nate knew about and organizes a private "little" strike force to eliminate Nate (and use anything Nate cares about, like Joe Pickett and his family, to do it). Collateral damage is pretty extensive.

So, the "good" guy has to be paranoid and fend off every unexpected attack, warn friends to "get out of Dodge" until the heat is off, and not run out of ammunition. He does this ruthlessly and without regret. After all, he can't go to the authorities for help since they are the ones out to get him.

The story is well told. I'm glad I was reading during afternoons.

There are fewer of those pesky improbabilities than Box sometimes drops into his stories. There are more awful bloody scenes than suspenseful build up scenes, and I can skim the gory stuff more easily than I can skim the fear-inducing tension.

I liked reading this one. Box is a great story teller. The back story of Nate Romanowski is about what I expected it would be, but the capabilities of the "bad" guys' strike force stretch my imagination. (A couple times I thought of The Bourne Identity. It's the only one of those movies I've seen, and the action in Force of Nature reminded me of the chases and gun fights in that Bourne movie. That was also a reminder that the forces at work in this story are anything but forces of nature.)

What did you think of Force of Nature? Or of C. J. Box's other books? Write and tell this little bit of the world how you reacted.

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