Resurrection Express
A Thriller
Stephen Romano
Elroy's father did a lot of breaking-and-entering as the boy was growing up. Cracking safes, stealing cars. Taught him a few things, too. How to dismantle a pistol (sixty seconds). How to hotwire a car (ten seconds). How to land in jail (three years).

Jail figures prominently here. "A terrible place of concrete and steel," says Elroy. So we meet him on page one, fighting in the prison yard with Coolie. Elroy knows "how to kick the ass of a guy twice your size."

    I hear teeth shatter under my knuckles. I hit him just the way you're supposed to, arm straight out, wrist stiff like steel...

"I hit him next in the throat, a jujitsu-style straight jab with my fingers. His windpipe closes with a sick crack and he loses all his air."

When Coolie is on the ground, "just to be sure and to make it nice and showy for the boys, I swing around again with the heel of my foot and something that looks like a big red tomato bomb explodes in the center of his face."

This is just page one, mind you. Noses figure big in Resurrection Express. For instance, on page 250, where I finally gave up --- there are 437 pages total --- the bad guys have a guy tied up upside down against the wall. They've already cut off his ears with a meat cleaver. Now they're starting in on his face.

    He gurgles through rivers of blood. He's been worked over pretty bad already, his nose mashed back the other way on his face like a pulverized fruit.

Elroy's wife turns up in the warehouse, thrown on the floor "like a broken puppet."

    And as she reaches out to touch me, I see devastation in her eyes. I see worlds destroyed. I see her lips shivering and her whole body rumbling with pain.

Where's the sicko who did all this? We get to hear him too: "A thick roll of sadistic laughter, coming right at me."

    The man who destroyed my life steps out from behind the curtain, his white suit spackled with bright red blotches.

    His eyes flare like cruel diamonds.

    His smile is disgusting and final.

    "Ain't she a sexy thing," he says.

"Steps out from behind the curtain." " Eyes like diamonds." A smile that is disgusting.

§     §     §

Shooting people, walls covered with blood, hacking at bodies with cleavers. All these figure big in Resurrection Express. And the editors there at Gallery Books chose to call it "A Thriller."

Some might find it thrilling. Hackers, for instance. Hackers are big here. Not only chop-off-your-ears / chop-off-your-fingers hackers ... but computer hackers too. Elroy, for instance.

Contrary to the butchers and killers, Elroy tell us that he has never shot anyone. In this collection of bodies in various stages of being bludgeoned to death or maddened with strange drugs, he works the other side, stands pure.

He is a specialist at hacking computers. He slips adroitly through bank-style alarm devices around vaults. He can get in and out of computer programs faster than you can say "Flash Gordon." Here he is, for instance, with the lovely Alex ... a freckled, sexy agent straight from the federally funded secret networks of Afghanistan. She and Elroy are to break into a safe, a big one, filled with big secrets. Their tools. "The main deck is a series of X58 military-spec motherboards, with six core CPUs, each with 18 gigs of memory ... Two keyboards, six removable hard drives, one terabyte each. Wacom pad, virtual mouse, plenty of external power."

This computer stuff is certainly lots more fun than the chopped ear and nose sessions of Resurrection. Elroy has to figure out all this brainy stuff, taking us with him, blowing safes loaded with secrets so hot that if he and Alex succeed, they'll be done in just like the others because of the seventeen hard drives they find, which contain the inner workings of ... are you ready? ... The Resurrection Express.

§     §     §

I actually enjoyed the safe-cracking stuff. It has a countdown, measured off in hours and minutes at the head of each paragraph as we go through the five interlocks to get at the goodies within ... with another surprise tucked in there, a explosive device set to go off if not deactivated minutes after penetrating the treasure trove.

Outside the computer/vault stuff Resurrection (and its author) have a problem. Not only with the gore. It has to do with italics. Italics sprinkled around like dog-shit on the morning lawn.

These aren't just simple italics: "Pow!" "Bang!" "Ow!" These italics are programmed to give us Meaningful if Dangerous Truths. Like,

    You think you have what it takes, kid?


    It's the face of God.


    Only the chosen few can look there.

With these, and the very title itself, Resurrection Express, the book comes to have a rather biblical feel to it. An abundance of evil people. The need for vengeance. The face of the Divine. All of which seem to point us towards that famous biblical passage that the religious folk like to pretend doesn't exist. That knife edge slipped into Exodus 33, God and Moses, and Moses wants to find out if God really exists or is just a big put-on. Show me your face, he demands.

The reply:

    Thou canst not see my face: for there shall no man see me, and live.

    And the Lord said, Behold, there is a place by me, and thou shalt stand upon a rock:

    And it shall come to pass, while my glory passeth by, that I will put thee in a cleft of the rock, and will cover thee with my hand while I pass by:

    And I will take away mine hand, and thou shalt see my back parts; but my face shall not be seen.

That seems to be exactly what we are getting in Resurrection Express.

A heavy, nonstop dose of God's backside.

In spades.

§     §     §

The plot is addicting, and Romano is not bad as a writer, although the line about a smile being "final" and the picture of Toni "rumbling with pain" are not in my lexicon. It's hard to give up on this one, however, no matter how blood-besotted.

Which is the point, I suppose ... and the trouble, too: the writing sucks you in, and, at the same time, Romano hands you a screwy message. The world runs on dollars, violence, and hate. Love has to be stolen, and even then, it doesn't have a chance. And you'll only make it if you buy into this system with all you've got.

--- Richard Saturday
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