Everybody knows about the Secret Service. It’s an organization charged with protecting the President of the United States along with the critical infrastructure of our country.
But you’ve probably never heard of the S.E.C.R.E.T. Service even though it’s been around for a long time. George Washington himself assembled the super team of paranormal operatives when he needed a little ghostbusting help. In fact, Washington would never have made it across the Delaware River without some assistance from his loyal S.E.C.R.E.T. agents. Denizens of the watery deep would have gobbled him up in a heartbeat.
But why would the U.S. government need a bunch of monster hunters on the payroll? Here’s the explanation from author Will Conway: “Before our colonies were established, monsters had free reign of the New World. But the pilgrims brought organization with them, and a bloodthirsty desire to see the land enslaved before them. The beasts, the demons, the things of nightmares, slowly began to lose their habitats.” Over time these creatures have set their sights on the POTUS. It is in him, says Conway, that their hate is focused. As a result, the Stealth Employment and Covert Response to Elevated Threats team must remain ever vigilant when it comes to the President’s safety.
The novel starts when a gang of hunchbacked zombies appears just outside a presidential political rally. Naturally the S.E.C.R.E.T. Service is on the case. As it turns out, the zombies aren’t zombies at all. They’re actually hybrid creatures with human and non-human DNA squished together. “And not in a friendly fashion,” says Billy, the group’s science nerd.
One thing leads to another and the fantastic five find themselves in the middle of a power struggle between a race of politically motivated shapeshifters and another secret government organization called FATE (btw how many “secret” government organizations are there anyway? Phil Coulson wants to know).
In a way, S.E.C.R.E.T. Service (the novel) is like a paranormal police procedural. It will surely appeal to readers who enjoy the mind-numbingly dull process of following dead-end leads, collecting evidence, hacking computers, filing paperwork, and all the unglamorous grunt work that accompanies such activities.
Generally we don’t like that kind of stuff. We’ve never cared for TV shows like Law & Order, CSI, or Homicide. But we love monsters and superheroes. And we love shadowy syndicates bent on world domination. As such, S.E.C.R.E.T. Service is a somewhat enjoyable rewrite of Men in Black, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., X-Files, and Ghostbusters.
Problems persist, however. Along with its dull procedural component, the novel’s pacing is often erratic. And the non-linear storytelling isn’t totally seamless. In addition, the romance between Daniel and Alicia is maddeningly infantile. The pair’s courtship will make anyone over the age of 18 wince with embarrassment.
Thankfully, the novel contains plenty of humor and features a core cast of likeable heroes. And, of course, the “monsters” are cool too (Edward Invisibilus, in particular, is quite an invention). If this is the start of a new series, it’s a pretty good start. We encourage the author and his publisher to sit down and have a conversation about what worked and what didn’t work in this effort. There’s plenty of promise for future volumes. Despite our niggling criticisms, we look forward to seeing more of Edmond, Sarah, Kevin, Billy, and Raul: the agents of S.E.C.R.E.T.
[S.E.C.R.E.T. Service / By Will Conway / First Printing: March 2016 / ISBN: 9781530572090]