Crimson Son 2 by Russ Linten (2017) – It’s not often I have the opportunity to review a book before it’s published, but I was a Beta reader for this book, so I thought I’d kill two birds with one stone and give the author this review since it’s officially out there now.
In the first book, Crimson Son, we’re introduced to the world of Crimson Mask. It’s a world very similar to ours except that governments have created super-powered heroes called Augments. But we’re not focused on the battles of the hero, Crimson Mask. No, this is the first-person story of his non-powered son who has been locked away his entire adolescent life after his mother was killed.
In this book, Spencer is in college. He’s come to a guarded relationship with his dad after saving his father and the world previously from a bad guy named The Beetle. His friend, Eric, sends an Augment named Aurora to grab Spence from class with an urgent message that his deceased mother is back. At the base, the Crimson Mask (Dad) has been gathering a few other Augments to battle dangers for mankind. Imagine Spencer’s surprise when he arrives to discover his mother’s persona is inhabiting the body of a former adversary named Charlotte. Charlotte, a powerful Augment able to force anyone to do anything, might be hiding behind Mom’s personality, and Spence doesn’t trust her.
While his father is away on a mission, Eric (the resident techie) and Spence do a systems’ check on the base and are attacked by unaffiliated (bad) Augments. They draw Crimson Mask away to kidnap Polybius, a member of Crimson Mask’s team who can decipher anything. Spence, as tech support, Mom, as moral support, and Dad go to the Mideast to rescue Polybius from Cyrus, a former friend. Crimson Mask is depowered and wounded, and Spence begins to think of Charlotte as his mother after they work together to rescue his dad and make it back to base.
It turns out Short Wave, a Soviet Augment who disappeared decades earlier, is behind the plot to destroy Augments who don’t agree with his new world order. Polybius has joined him in his plan to take over the world. Only Mom, pretending to be Charlotte, is able to scare the enemy enough to let them go. Back at the base, Eric and Spence discover Short Wave has infiltrated every computer system on Earth with a virus for his digital credit scheme similar to Bitcoin. He intends to integrate machines and the working class into a harmonious faction working for him.
Transporting to a factory in China making the virus, Spence, Aurora, and Danger encounter Short Wave again, but he convinces the two Augments to join him and sends Spence home. Before he can stop the virus, Short Wave and his minions activate it, sending the entire world into financial turmoil. Doing what they can, Eric and Spence assist hackers and governments trying to keep their systems running.
Meanwhile, an evil Augment named Destructo attacks the base and forces Spence to use Short Wave’s new credit system to make their enemy a millionaire. Mom, again pretending to be Charlotte, threatens him. Apparently, Charlotte’s persuasion powers aren’t entirely gone, but when Mom sends Destructo to a cell, the real Charlotte, hiding in the base computer system, uses the building’s automatic weapons to brutally kill him.
The Crimson Mask returns with the few remaining Augments and orders the base destroyed and the team to search out Short Wave in Detroit. The climactic battle ensues and Short Wave and his cohorts are defeated.
I’m not a fan of first person, present tense writing. The first person is rarely used to its full potential (not the case here), and the present tense for over 380 pages makes me feel as if I’m falling forward the entire time. I think present tense is fine for short intimate pieces, but not for full-length novels. Russ does a good job with the first person. In fact, he does too good of a job. The conversational style, complete with run-on, freeform sentences and paragraphs of fragments, are difficult to read. But we’re definitely in Spence’s head and see what he’s seeing.
The plot moves along well with the heroes discovering more and more of Short Wave’s plan as the story unfolds. The idea of Mom being alive in someone else’s body is brilliant, and Spence’s reaction to it seem very natural and lifelike. He has his suspicions but he misses his mom.
The lead character’s slow acceptance of his mother overshadows the “take over the world” plot, but both conflicts are very well done. The story is interesting on a personal level as well as a story level.