Imagine Die Hard, if John McClane had been a retired Special Operations soldier instead of an off-duty cop. That’s pretty much the scenario that Steven Hildreth presents in The Sovereigns, albeit with a bit more going on behind the scenes.
It is an alternate 2005. An anarchist/sovereign citizen terrorist group calling itself The Liberty Brigade, made up of a few true believers and a few more violent sociopaths who find the idea of revolution fits right in with their particular idea of fun, has seized the Saguaro Towers, a Carlton Hotel, in Tucson. They have struck fast and hard. Security is dead, the hotel’s guests are held hostage, and they have the situation under control. Their demands hit all the high points of the isolationist and conspiracy theorist narrative. They are also calculated so that the government can never agree to them.
This is because Colonel Rothbard, the leader of the Liberty Brigade, is playing an entirely different game. Unfortunately for him, Ben Williams, the retired Delta Force SNCO that Hildreth introduced in his first novel, The Last Bayonet, happens to be on-site when the hijacking takes place, and manages to stay free, taking a very similar role to the aforementioned John McClane.
What follows is a tense, fast paced thriller with plenty of action. Hildreth keeps the clues as to what’s really going on coming at just the right pace to keep you guessing for a while, interspersed with some pretty intense killings as Williams and the sole survivor of the Towers’ security contingent, TJ Eastman, do what they can to fight back against the terrorists and try to get recon reports back to the FBI Hostage Rescue Team outside.
Overall, the story is well plotted and executed. The action is believable, even if there do seem to be a lot of headshots. Under the circumstances, the reasoning is solid (the bad guys are all wearing body armor).
Most of the characters are quite well-drawn. The only nitpick I could find is that some of the bad guys seem a little bit too based on internet Anarcho-Capitalists. While presumably some of the cannon fodder isn’t going to be the smartest, and might use the usual AnCap buzzwords on a regular basis, at times it did seem a trifle overdone, making the bad guys slightly cartoonish in their evil.
The end opens up a whole new can of worms (won’t go into specifics, but it is very well done), presumably leading into another sequel. Hildreth is getting better as he goes, and I think we can look forward to more to come.
The Sovereigns can be purchased from Amazon here.