Jim's Reviews > State of Rebellion

State of Rebellion by Gordon Ryan
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's review
Jun 17, 2012

it was amazing
Read in February, 2011

A book has to capture my interest in the first couple of chapters, or I'll likely move on to another book. A book that claims to be an action/suspense thriller should hook me in the first couple of pages. Gordon Ryan's "State of Rebellion" grabbed me in the first paragraph and never let go: "Had the gallows knot been placed to the side, behind the ear, Richard McFarland's neck would have snapped, delivering a swift death. As it was, the young California National Guard lieutenant twisted and convulsed for a long, agonizing two minutes before he died."

That's the prelude to an action-packed, suspenseful page-turner of a novel in the Tom Clancy style, except that Gordon Ryan does it better and far more succinctly than Clancy's bloated thousand-page sagas. And Ryan's characters are real flesh-and-blood people compared to Clancy's cardboard cutouts.

The storyline involves a move to bring about the secession of the State of California from the United States. Within California, the secessionist movement is being championed by many of the state's politicians, as well as by local militias that are popping up around the state. The story covers both the political machinations and the actions of the militias to force secession.

There are a number of major characters in the novel, but the story focuses on Daniel Rawlings, a county administrator and officer in the National Guard, and Nicole Bentley, an FBI agent assigned to keep watch on the local militias. Rawlings is still mourning the death of his young wife in an accident when he meets Special Agent Bentley, and over time they become involved romantically as well as professionally. It's a sweet romance, one that blooms gradually as the two get to know each other, not the typical boy-meets-girl, hops-into-bed-with-girl scenario.

As the political action heats up and the local militias become increasingly violent, the federal government becomes more and more determined to put an end to the secessionist movement and end the crisis, and this leads to even more violence by the militias. Although the secessionist movement appears on the surface to be a populist rebellion against the intrusiveness and over-regulation by the federal government, the movement is secretly being orchestrated by a sinister businessman for his own purposes. Will Daniel Rawlings, Nicole Bentley, and others who are working to keep California in the Union succeed in learning the secret, and can they expose the fraud and quell the movement without it leading to another civil war? That's the crux of the plot, and there are a lot of suspenseful scenes along the way.

I said that "State of Rebellion" reminded me of a Tom Clancy thriller. I was also reminded of the 1960s classic "Seven Days in May." The storylines are completely different, but the relentless pacing and the conflict between the political sector and the military sector are similar.

"State of Rebellion" is an ambitious novel, but the author has done a splendid job of managing a big storyline. Think of a chessboard with each side moving its pieces in a grand scheme with checkmate as the goal. That's "State of Rebellion."

NOTE: The title indicates that this is a "Pug Connor" novel. Pug Connor is a fictional former marine who has become a CIA operative. His role in "State of Rebellion" is relatively small until near the end of the novel, but apparently he plays a bigger role in subsequent books by Mr. Ryan.

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