The Athena Project is a story of a team of all-female operatives of the counter-terrorism team, Delta Force, who find themselves in the midst of a mission much larger than they every expected. When twenty Americans are killed in a terrorist attack in Rome, Athena Project operatives, Gretchen Casey, Julie Ericsson, Megan Rhodes, and Alex Cooper are tasked with capturing a Venetian arms dealer responsible for providing the explosives from his home.
But following the arm’s dealer’s interrogation, they are tasked to check out a secret bunker once used by the Nazi’s during WWII as a scientific research center. They find the gruesome remains of inhumane experiments from the 1940’s but all the equipment and technology has been removed…recently. Now, propelled on a mission to discover the culprits behind the clearing of the bunker and the whereabouts of the supposed technology that once laid inside.
Simultaneously, there is a storyline taking place in Colorado where a foreign spy is close to penetrating the mysterious secret the U.S. government has hidden beneath Denver International Airport, but she doesn’t realize that she is being played by the man she thought she was seducing.
I actually finished the book back in early January, but I had a hard time figuring out what about the book that bothered me. I considered it an entertaining read, but something was making it feel eh to me for lack of a better word. That was until I saw an episode of Chuck (“Chuck versus the C.A.T. Squad”) that I immediately realized what it was that was disappointing.
In The Athena Project, as in the Chuck episode, the four girls are all stunning beauties who are skilled weapons experts and tactical killing machines. They both use their feminine wiles to infiltrate and get close to their targets and then their cold-hearted training to carry out their mission; however, in The Athena Project there was a lack of humanity to the characters. When I say humanity, I don’t mean compassion, but more that they are so beautiful and so great at what they do that they seemed invincible. More like a superhero than a human spy with vulnerabilities and character flaws. In addition, I felt there was a lack of character development to the main cast of characters that made the four operatives interchangeable. I found myself many times pausing to remember the backstory of the character I was following and not being able to pinpoint which one it was. There was so little to separate them from one another that it was as if they were one person.
Again, even in the single episode of Chuck the four women were distinctly different from one another. Each had their own issues, their own pasts and their own problems. Why is it that I felt more connected with four characters in a single hour of TV than I did with four protagonists over an entire novel? Somethings not right with that situation.
Other issues I had with the novel involved the pacing and the seeming superlative secondary story arcs. Throughout the novel, the story seemed to be building to a climactic and epic ending; however, the ending was rather predictable and almost boring. There were parts in the middle of the book that had me on my seat more than the ending. Also, the entire story in Denver was interesting but there was no resolution as to why it existed in the first place. The dynamic between the two spies (one American, one Russian) both tasked with getting close to the other was intriguing, but the story arc was almost thrown away with a quick conclusion, and when it was done, I found myself wondering what was the point.
This was the first Brad Thor novel I’ve read, and I know there is a number of books around a character who had a cameo in this novel, Scot Harvath, but as a first time reader. I find myself wondering if I want to try another one of his books. Where this novel falls short with protagonists that are more caricatures of female spies and the plot is weak and underdeveloped perhaps his other books stand out as resouding successes in a genre that is greatly entertaining.
I apologize if this review is a bit negative. I generally like to stay constructive, but I’m afraid I may have been too harsh on Brad Thor’s recent work. It takes a lot to write a novel and I applaud his effort but I feel this needed a better editor to point out those substantive issues before publication. Let’s hope my next read of a Brad Thor novel is a more positive one.
As a last note, this novel is probably a perfect in-flight read. It would be a great one to pick up at the airport and read as you wait for your flight to take off. It’s fast paced, entertaining for what it is and brainless enough to not exhaust you while you travel.