American Assassin by Vince Flynn
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I've been meaning to try out Vince Flynn's books for a while, especially since his name is often mentioned in the same breath as the likes of Lee Child or James Rollins. It wasn't until they announced some casting choices for the planned movie adaptation of this book - namely, Michael Keaton as the elderly mentor-type, and Dylan O'Brien as the American Assassin himself - that I finally had the motivation to read this. Then I went and announced on Twitter that I was adding this book to my to-read list effective immediately, and a surprising number of Twitter denizens praised my decision - including Proxy Snyder.
The only real issue with this book is that I sometimes had trouble telling whether or not it was supposed to take place in the past, or in the present day. I mostly blame the back-cover blurb for that because of its indication that it's set "two decades after the Cold War," around the time of publication, but in-book chronology indicates it's pretty close to the Lockerbie bombing of 1988, and characters still speak of the KGB in the present tense, so it's most certainly set in the very early 90s. Which makes sense, since this is a prequel, as I understand it.
That said, though, it's a good story, in which we learn about first the training of Mitch Rapp, then his earliest missions taking on terrorists of all shapes, sizes, and colors. Revenge is a pretty powerful motivator, as in Rapp's case where the Lockerbie bombing took the life of someone very close to him. Helping him out on his missions is how perfectly undetectable he is. Old Man Hurley sure gets a nice surprise when he first tries to take him on in a fight, and underestimates him to the point where he only manages to "win" by resorting to the cheapest of cheap shots - grabbing Rapp's balls. There's also the fact that Rapp's got dark enough features to blend in, chameleon-like, in most Mediterranean and/or Middle Eastern settings. Like Beirut, where most of this book's action takes place.
Reading the IMDb message boards, I've noticed a lot of people proposing their own alternative casting choices for Rapp, other than Dylan O'Brien, whom many of these message boarders perceive as too white (never mind the fact that he's mostly Mediterranean and has said he's been told to stay out of the sun while filming Teen Wolf lest he tan too much) for the part. (Such other choices include Elyes Gabel, Tyler Posey, and, of all people, Ryan Eggold. What, none of them could consider Brett Dalton, if they were looking at New Tens broadcast-TV action-thriller bad boys?) But none of those alternatives have O'Brien's excellent range. Just look at the sharp contrast between his two most famous roles - jokey, clumsy, hilarious Stiles Stilinski...
...and the battle-hardened, lean, mean, fighting machine that is Thomas.
I get way too much mileage out of that Scorch Trials electric tazer rifle GIF already. Judge me.
Bottom line, this is a great story, and if they make it official and cast Dylan O'Brien as Mitch Rapp, I'll have even more reason to part with my money for a movie theater ticket.
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