I grew up with G.I. Joe. It was huge. When I saw that Transformers seemed to be making a come back, with a live-action movie, my first thought was, I really hope they do G.I. Joe. And they have! Waiting with extreme excitement for the new movie, G.I. JOE: The Rise of Cobra, I had to pick up the new prequel novel, G.I. JOE: Above & Beyond, written by Max Allan Collins, famous for his graphic novel Road to Perdition. I picked this one up, hoping for an action-packed thriller that was lots of fun. I can freely say that this novel was all that and more.
Conrad Hauser--know as Duke to his friends--is head of a top notch squad of American soldiers, who go in on missions that only the best can succeed at. Duke, along with his best friend Ripcord, go on mission after mission, saving the world in secret. However, on a mission to Uzekurkistan to rescue scientists held to work on weapons manufacturing, events are set in motion that lead to San Sebastiao, a small South American country in the midst of civil turmoil, as Duke and his Able Team try to stop a military coup from shattering the country.
Meanwhile, secreted away in the Pit, G.I. JOE, a multi-national group of soldiers, works to keep world peace viable, working undercover and invisible to save people from threats they don't even know exist. Hawk, head of G.I. JOE, sends out a crack team of soldiers to shadow Duke and his squad, to both protect them and to recover advanced weaponry that has fallen into the wrong hands.
The book moves fast, flipping between the American squad and the G.I. JOE unit, as both work to protect San Sebastiao from civil war. Collins quickly creates a group of very likeable characters, and builds some emotional attachment, all while playing to the desires of fan boys to see their favorite G.I. Joes in action (used to be G.I. Joe, all caps for the movie). The book is fun, light, and tightly written, with no dead space and no wasted dialogue.
Collins has built a novel that is fun, fast, and light to read, yet has a solid plot, intelligent action, and made me even more excited for the movie. Finding a copy of Collins' novelization of G.I. JOE: The Rise of Cobra, is high on my to do list.