Book Review: Savage Tide

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Author: Greg Barron
ISBN: 978-0-7322-9436-6
RRP: $29.99

Greg Barron’s second novel Savage Tide is the sequel to Rotten Gods. At the time I picked it up I didn’t realise this was a follow-up so I can say that it doesn’t really matter if you haven’t read the first before you read Savage Tide. This is a book that I picked up and started reading without actually checking out the blurb. I fast realised that this was a very realistic thriller that I was going to find very difficult to read, but I was determined that this time I was going to see it through to the end.

Savage Tide takes place a year after Rotten Gods and again Marika Hartmann is one of our lead characters. She is working in a refugee camp in Somalia where the conditions are far from fabulous and every day you survive is a bonus.

Much of the action takes place across the Middle East from Iran, Iraq, Syria and Somalia because that’s where the extremists are planning their decimation of the western world. As we follow them we see a world becoming decimated by war, famine, genetically modified crops, rising tides and changing seasons. Seaside towns have been left empty as the people have been forced to move further inland by rising tide-lines, the landscape is war torn and food is getting scarce. Everybody is suspicious and just being different could be enough to get you captured or killed.

The Directorate of Resource and Future Security (DRFS) is tasked with trying to stop the threat before it’s too late. They are up against the clock and always find themselves one step behind, but it is always only a very small step – enough to stop them getting the jump on the threat but not enough to stop them from following the tracks in the dust.

Savage Tide is set in the near future, I’m thinking around 35-ish years ahead, though no date is ever specified. We can see the direction the world is heading with all of the GM crops, over-population, religious extremist groups and I am not averse to admitting that I found it very disturbing reading. It is almost too realistic, too easy to see it happening and not necessarily in 40 years time – especially after the recent attack in Syria.

Covert Government bureaus, secret services and lots of military weaponry mean that acronyms abound and I did find it a little difficult to keep on top of them all. There were also several religions and different extremist cells that had come together for this major strike and trying to keep all of them straight in my head was just as challenging.

savage tide

Barron writes a well paced and intriguing thriller. I had to slog it through the first half but then once I got past that point I couldn’t put it down. Let me clarify that the hard slog of the first half had nothing to do with the writing, the pacing or the story – it was all me and getting into the right headspace to appreciate the book.

Savage Tide is definitely not for the squeamish, there are gunfights, disease and scientific experimentation where the ‘higher cause’ is always more important than the life of the individual and that goes for both sides. The DRFS operatives also need to ensure they put the ultimate success of the mission first.

There were times when you couldn’t tell what side someone was on which certainly amped up the suspense and kept me guessing, it wasn’t until the very last second that some of those questions were answered.

The threat of chemical warfare wasn’t the only focus of this book. If you are looking for a little more depth there is plenty to be found. The need to find beauty in the world, the ability for those in deplorable conditions to make the best of their lot and still manage to laugh and smile. Barron also delves a little into the customs and beliefs of citizens in these countries.

Savage Tide was engrossing and left me wanting to know what comes next, it was well written with realistic and detailed prose. I have to admit that I have never been one to keep up with what’s going on in the world, not exactly an admirable trait but it’s who I am and it has always been the way with me. I avoid the news, newspapers and current affairs because there are so many terrible things going on. There is always death and horror somewhere in the world. Having said that there are things that even I have not been able to avoid knowledge of, even if it is very sketchy knowledge.

There seems to be a lot of factual reference in Savage Tide to events of recent history in the Middle East, Saddam Hussein, weapons of mass destruction, the anthrax scares and the terrorist attacks of the past couple of decades. I think, for me personally anyway, all of these references to horrific events in our recent past just drive the realism of this book home harder. When faced with things that have happened and how they fit with the events of this book just makes it all seem more plausible and that scared me – much more than your slasher books and psychotic murderous rampages.

This is not the type of book I would generally pick up so I can’t add the  ‘If you love ….. then you will love Barron’ because I don’t have the frame of reference. He has been placed in the same caliber as MacLean, Clancy and Ludlum but I can’t say I have read any of them. What I can say is that if you like political thrillers, fiction that could so easily be a commentary on real life, and gritty, graphic action with a military flavour then this just might be the next author for you.

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