Sunday, July 8, 2018

Book Review: 'Eagle Shield: MILESTONE Rising' by Carl Lakeland

‘No explosion. I got it wrong somehow. But as soon as I thought it, the earth below heaved up in a dome, then collapsed back down into a crater.’

Australian author Carl Lakeland grew up during the early seventies, western suburbs of Sydney and enlisted into the military at the age of seventeen – those experiences are evident and reflected in his thriller suspense novel. His stories revolve around the element of ‘what if?’ He pushes the boundaries of his stories to the edge of the Official Secrets Act, which will leaves readers left to make up their own mind as to the outcome. As he has stated, “As a writer, unpredictability is key essence. If I write something that can be foreseen in coming chapters, it’s not good enough. I will scrap it. My goal is to keep the reader wondering, even sometimes to the detriment of my good guys!”

Carl allows us to see the human side of his lead character Nathan before the action hits – ‘She said nothing after I picked her up from the safe house and drove her away. Heading south out of Alice Springs on the Stuart Highway, all I had for company was the constant rattle and whine of the diesel engine. Not that I minded so much. I had no experience making chit chat with a ten-year-old girl. Most kids I considered a right royal pain in the arse. When she did say something meaningful, we were kicking up long dust trails, several hours south on the Oodnadatta Track. “Hey, mate, slow down!” Mate? Did she just call me that? I glimpsed her from the side for a second while the Land Rover bounced hard over the ruts and potholes. “What’s the problem?” I yelled over the noise of rushing gravel. “You’re going too fast, and my bum hurts!” My Land Rover wasn’t all that forgiving in the suspension. A road like the Oodnadatta Track tended to show its weaknesses. I slowed things down a pace, considering my arse was also about to fall off. “Where we going, mate?” “Don’t call me mate,” I said. “Away…We’re going away.” I checked the rear-view mirror for the umpteenth time. Nothing but dust. No cars. We were on our own. My brain thumped hard thinking about all the things that must get done. When we get there. South, to the big smoke. About as far south as we could get. “Then, what do I call you?” she asked in what I thought was an annoyed undertone. “You mean, who. I’m Nathan. And you’re Angelique.” “Maggie said not to call me that anymore.” “Yeah. I know. Angel is your name from now on.” “You still haven’t said where we’re going. And what’s wrong with your leg?” “You ask a lot of questions,” I said. But then I realised kids must be like that. I reached down and tapped my prosthetic limb with my knuckles, loud enough for her to recoil in her seat. “Oh my god! You’ve got a wooden leg!” “Yeah, just like a pirate. My leg is somewhere on the side of the road in Iraq. And we’re going to Melbourne.” I expected a barrage of questions, but she took it on board and went back to being silent. She didn’t even bother to ask where Iraq was.’

The plotline appears confusing at first, but read on and be captured by his ingenuity: ‘Carl’s impressive literary debut is more than just a suspense thriller (although it most assuredly is that): ‘Nathan Masters, former SAS, injured in combat, redeployed with the Australian Secret Intelligence Service. Nathan is issued with a new mission. EAGLE SHIELD. Objective: Relocate the Asset to the safe house in Melbourne. Objective: Protect the computer disk at all costs. A trained killer must learn to forget everything he has come to know as a well-beaten path. He must become both father and protector to an orphaned ten-year-old girl. The Asset. Angel. A girl with a special gift and a destiny, who will change the course of history and humankind. Nathan must oversee Angel's upbringing. He must see to it that Angel is groomed and prepared for her induction into ASIS as an adult. At the same time, he must maintain the security of the disk. The stolen intelligence leading to MILESTONE. That was the plan. It went so wrong.’

This novel serves as the introduction of an important new novelist, one who avoids clich├ęs, choosing instead to bring the reader into the multifaceted aspects of the perplexing but gratifying story. This is a powerful introduction to an important new writer. 

Editor's note: This review has been published with the permission of Grady Harp. Like what you read? Subscribe to the SFRB's free daily email notice so you can be up-to-date on our latest articles. Scroll up this page to the sign-up field on your right.