Now that summer’s here (and my prospects of gaining employment appear dimmer by the day), I’ve decided to catch up on my reading list. This last semester was so busy that I had time to read exactly two books (not including assignments). Normally, even with school, I can read that many in a week.
The first novel I chose for my summer reading list was I, Sniper, the most recent novel by Stephen Hunter. Now, I’ve been a big fan of Stephen Hunter for several years, ever since I saw the film Shooter, which is loosely based on Hunter’s novel Point of Impact. Hunter’s unique combination of incredibly visual, almost poetic writing combined with his pulse-pounding suspense and action scenes drew me in and kept me hooked.
Sadly, that hook loosened its grip as I started reading some of Hunter’s later works. The suspense and imagery weren’t as strong as before, and Hunter seemed to be losing the ability to write unique, distinctive characters (i.e. everyone seemed to be either a generic good guy or generic bad guy). That decline came to a head with Hunter’s then-newest books, The 47th Samurai and Night of Thunder. Samurai‘s plot was so absurd as to be implausible: Bob Lee Swagger, a former Marine Corps Sniper in Vietnam (and Hunter’s most famous character) who was medically retired from the corps after a bullet from a Soviet sniper rifle destroyed his hip has suddenly become a modern-day samurai, running around Tokyo dispatching vicious Yakuza swordsmen without breaking a sweat. And while Thunder brought Swagger back into the realm of plausibility, the story was, to put it bluntly, boring, doing absolutely nothing to engage the reader. Plus, Hunter magically turned Bob Lee into a deadly quickdraw artist with a pistol with no warning or foreshadowing whatsoever.
Still, I couldn’t quite bear to say that I was through with Stephen Hunter, but I, Sniper at first did little to restore my faith. The basic plotline is as follows: Four noted anti-Vietnam War protesters are murdered by a sniper, and Vietnam Veteran and legendary Marine Corps sniper Carl Hitchcock (a virtual clone of the famous Carlos Hathcock) is quickly acused of the crime. He commits suicide before the FBI can question him. However, FBI Agent Nick Memphis thinks everything is just a little too perfect in this case, so he brings in Bob Lee to take an outsider’s look at the case. The two quickly discover a far-reaching conspiracy that stretches into the halls of power in Washington D.C, and the conspirators will do anything and everything to silence Memphis and Swagger.
My first though when I read the synopsis was “Oh no, he’s just re-written Point of Impact.”
Well, I’m delighted to say that I was wrong. Not only is I, Sniper completely different from Point of Impact, the book has rocketed Stephen Hunter back to the top of the thriller game. Everything that I loved about Hunter’s old works are back with a vengeance. And let me tell you, the book is un-putdownable. I started reading it about 8:00 last night, and by the end of chapter one it had grabbed me by the eyeballs and didn’t let go until I’d finished all 415 pages of it (which happened right around 3:00 AM this morning).
Granted, the book does have a handful of flaws (Hunter still seems to have his recently-developed dislike of contractions in dialogue), but the book is so riviting, so well-written that they can easily be forgiven. It isn’t quite as good as Point of Impact, but let me tell you, it’s darn close. Definitely go to Amazon or your nearest bookstore and pick up a copy right away. The book is that good.
Welcome back, Stephen Hunter, welcome back.