Battlefield 3: The Russian by Andy McNab and Peter Grimsdale
This is a novel based on a video game called Battlefield 3 made by EA. It is a first person shooter. I don't play video games but I believe in the game you are part of the US Marines and have to help save the world.
It is written by Andy McNab who is an international bestselling author known for his biography Bravo Two Zero and his military thrillers starring Nick Stone. It is co-authored by another guy whose name I don't recognise but apparently he used to be an editor on the show, Crime Watch from what I read on the blurb.
I wasn't expecting much when I started reading / listening to this, as it is based on a shooting game, but at the same time, I was curious to see what they had produced. Unfortunately, it didn't surprise me. The plot is rubbish, and most of the characters are annoying and unbelievable in the way they act.
I would like to know whether the authors were given free reign when it came to writing the plot or if the game designers had already created the game and they were brought in last minute to string the different levels into a cohesive story. The latter is how it felt to me. I could imagine there are levels in the game where you have to go into a bank, or escort a civilian to safety, infiltrate one of the bad guy's mountain retreats, or find and diffuse a bomb.
The basic plot revolves around some suitcase nukes the Russians have managed to lose . . . again. It appears some terrorists based in Iran may have them. The good guys have to retrieve them before they are used in major cities. The action moves from Russia to Iran and Paris as the good guys follow their trail.
In the blurb that came with the book, it seems that in the game, the player plays as part of the US Marines. I was expecting the same in the novel. However, the main good guy is a Russian called Deemar who has had special forces training. He used to work for Russian Military Intelligence (GRU) but now works freelance.
It was good to see a Russian portrayed as one of the good guys for a change. I felt the authors tried a bit too hard to develop his character and to tell us about his back-story etc. I suppose they didn't have much else to do as the rest of the plot is so abysmal. I did like his sense of humour though along with his Russian buddies. He was able to come out with a funny line no matter what situation he is in. That's another thing I have not noticed before in a novel - a Russian with a sense of humour. He reminded me of an older version of James Bond.
I found it difficult to believe the damage and punishment Deemar manages to take throughout the novel. When playing a computer game and you get blown up, you don't think anything when your character reappears on screen from where you left off but when the same kind of thing happens in a novel, it is off-putting.
There is a US Marine Sergeant called Blackburn who also makes an appearance and is supposed to be a good guy. I didn't like his character at all. Actually, I didn't like any of the Marines or American characters in this. They seemed to have too much attitude and the CIA / law enforcement types acted in a predictable fashion. I found the quips and remarks by Blackburn's Marine colleagues irritating which may have been partially due to the accent the narrator gave them. It was also due to the fact that I could imagine the computer generated Marines that appear in this game to come out with pointless, crass lines like this.
Most of the story is spent with Deemar travelling from location to location trying to find the nukes. The action sequences in this aren't what I would consider to be especially well choreographed or memorable. Most of it revolves around the use of guns and grenades and bombs.
Though thinking about it now, I did think a scene where some scissors are plunged through a bad guy's eye was quite inventive.
The ending left me somewhat baffled. I don't think there were any parts missing from the version I was listening to, but we never get to find out what happens to the big bad guy who planned everything and how he is killed / captured. We never really see what he is up to during the earlier parts of the novel either.
I also felt the personal angle related to Deemar's motivation for taking on the mission in the first place, was not tied up neatly, as it should have been done. The ending felt rushed to me.
== Audio narration and availability ==
I am not sure why DooYoo have listed this as an audio CD as I suggested this as an audio download. This is available from the Audible site, and was narrated by Rupert Degas. It is 9 hours and 55 mins in length. It was unabridged. I believe it was published at the end of October 2011.
== Summary and recommendation ==
To sum up, on the positive side, I would say, I liked the character of the Russian, Deemer, even though during the novel he does kill innocent civilians. I could understand that as under the circumstances he didn't have much choice. I also liked his sense of humour.
However, there isn't much else I enjoyed about this. The plot has been done a thousand times before, and the other characters and action is very pedestrian. I would say the word bland does it justice.
Most of all, the ending felt abrupt and is not satisfying in any way - I give this a well deserved one star.