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Jason Elam, a former Super Bowl champion and pilot, with Steve Yohn, a Christian writer and speaker have teamed up for another installment in their Riley Covington thriller series. This third novel is Blackout, featuring the professional footballer Riley Covington and his adventures with (believe it or not) the U.S. Secret Service.
While on vacation from the Professional Football League, Riley is whisked away from his Alaskan retreat due to an imminent threat to the security of the United States and the world. En route to meet with the President, this former Air Force Special Ops member is briefed on the details by his friend and former Special Forces partner Scott Ross. An Islamic terrorist group is working with North Korea to deliver two electromagnetic-pulse (EMP) bombs to the U.S. Covington, Ross and other specialists are called on by the government to thwart these attacks.
Before receiving the complimentary Advance Reader Copy of this novel from Tyndale House Publishers, I was unaware of the Riley Covington series. The premise sounded interesting—a pro football player who’s a little bit of a James Bond on the side. It certainly isn’t very believable, but that wasn’t the point of the book. I believe the goal of the authors was to write an interesting, page-turning thriller that could appeal to Christians and non-Christians alike.
For the most part, I believe that Elam and Yohn achieved their goal. Blackout presents a troubling premise that could feasibly happen at some time in the future. The date of September 11th plays a significant role in the plot, giving some of the incidents in the story a chilly realism. It’s really only by God’s grace that we have as much security in the world today as we do. Things could be so much worse, and the events of this book clearly illustrate this.
There were several times during the last third of the story when I had a hard time putting the book down. The narrative was very interesting and seemed to be derived from a typical Hollywood thriller. There were moments of heroism, plenty of technology and a nail-biting ending. The authors have clearly seen an adventure movie or two in their time. And while the book was heavy on the testosterone, this female reader appreciated the chaste romantic subplot that was included in the story.
As a Christian, I also enjoyed the interjection of the faiths of many of the characters. The Christians were portrayed as earnest, yet imperfect in their faith. They weren’t overly preachy, but they occasionally shared how Christianity and scripture mattered in their crazy lives. It was also interesting to see the Islamic terrorists’ side of the story, occasionally profiled in several chapters. As author Jason Elam is a student of Christian apologetics and takes an interest in Middle East affairs, I believed the portrayal of these types of characters.
The only major qualm I have with the book is the distracted nature of some of the writing. Elam and Yohn write well when they’re focused on the suspenseful portions of the story. However, they frequently get caught up in trying to offer too much comic relief. I enjoy a chuckle to break the tension in a pulse-pounding story. This is why I like the sidebar humor in the movie National Treasure. It shows that we can take the calamity with a grain of salt and just enjoy the ride. In the case of Blackout, I felt the comedy came too often and in inappropriate times. If half of it had been cut, there would have been a perfect combination of tension and humor.
While there are moments that women will enjoy, this certainly seems geared toward the manly set. And due to some of the inherent violence in the events of the story, parents might want to save this one for elder teen boys. However, the writers do keep it clean with no direct quoting of cursing and the limitation of certain graphic details. Football fans will also be entertained, getting plenty of behind the scenes moments, drawn from Elam’s 17 years of NFL experience.
Overall, this novel was a fun ride. It’s easy to envision it on the big screen and it would be great if Jason and Steve got that opportunity. I anticipate reading the next book in the series and would like to read their previous editions as well. This Christian, football-watching, adventurous pilot’s wife is looking forward to more Riley Covington adventures!