Review: Red Agenda

Several weeks ago (possible almost two months, at this point?), Smith Publicity reached out to me via Instagram and asked if I’d be interested in reviewing some titles for them. My reaction was pretty much: Um, duh! Who doesn’t love receiving free books to review?! Their first books on offer: horror and political thriller. Both are out of my wheelhouse, but the political thriller seemed least likely to make me pee my pants in fear, so I opted for that one.

Red Agenda, by author Cameron Poe, is a plot-driven narrative that follows a handful of US government officials — CIA, military, & the like — as they uncover and attempt to thwart a potential nuclear war-inciting trade between a communist Russian submarine designer/genius and the Kuwait government. There’s somewhat of a slew of primary characters — Dan Archer, CIA mission coordinator and archenemy of Levi Carp, who is another CIA coordinator and royal jerk; Nick, a submarine-operating whiz; Andri, the Russian mastermind behind the world’s most advanced weapon of underwater warfare; George, a soon-to-be-retired CIA operative stationed in Kuwait; and a handful of others. As a devious plot by power-hungry minds comes to life in the Middle East, Dan is tasked with saving the world from corrupt US officials and other general scheming bastards.

The book gets off to a well-paced start, thrusting readers right into the action of Red Agenda as Poe ups the ante on drama with the turn of each page. Sure, the work focuses on a wealth of political problems; but it also hosts a number of familial and relationship dramas from start to finish. Ultimately, I was intrigued by the plot, and that interest kept me going through some other less-than-desirable features of the novel.

A few things I didn’t particularly care for:

  • This novel is dominated by males — and while that isn’t a bad thing, in and of itself, Poe used the primarily-masculine cast to employ several exceedingly derogatory slurs toward women over and over and over again. Hear me out, here: I’m well aware that “bitch” is a high-traffic insult in the realm of everyday vocabulary; however, I think Poe went over the top with his excessive use of this term and — my personal most-hated-word — the “c-word.” Guys, I almost stopped reading at the first use of “c***.” For real. I hate the word that much. And it wasn’t just one character who used it; multiple males did. Ugh. No.
  • Characterization is weak. I’m realizing now more than ever that I am not much of a plot-driven reader. When I feel like the characters are whole, when I feel as though they’re real — then I’m invested. Sadly, I caught myself rolling my eyes at character dialogue and actions multiple times in this book. See next note.
  • Cliches: Prestigious, Successful Man Turns Lesbian Straight! Man and Woman Overcome Life-Threatening Stressful Situation by Having Steamy Sex!

Although the novel caps out at 350-some pages, I did get through it pretty quickly — a testament to the speedy plot-driven nature of the work. That’s a plus. However, I was turned off by the aspects listed above; enough so to consider this book a 2-star read. That being said, I know that I am also not the primary audience for this book; I think if you’re into political thrillers, this would be a solid 3-star title.

Overall: 2 stars; this one was just not for me.

I was gifted a copy of Red Agenda by Smith Publicity, Inc., in exchange for my honest opinion and review. All ideas and words are my own.

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