After reading a few pages of Patrick Lee's action/ suspense novel "Runner," the reader is quite likely to assume that it's basically just another in that long line of near-superhero adventures. All the conventions of the genre are present and plentiful. But that assumption would be a mistake. Here are the basics:
The hero, Sam Dryden, is a former soldier and Special Services ace. He knows everything there is to know, it seems, about defense and the military and even politics. He has suffered great family tragedy and become a loner. All these character and plot elements are all too familiar to fans of the genre.
But as the plot unfolds, unique, thoughtful and even touching events occur, and that reader who was prepared to be bored suddenly realizes that he/she is hooked. One night, Sam feels an inexplicable urge to take a walk along the boardwalk that is near his home. Then his whole world changes with a bump. A twelve-year-old girl runs right into him, and he quickly realizes that she's the object of a chase, and her pursuers are armed with the latest military search equipment.
The girl is Rachel, and surprisingly, she is the one with super-human powers, and one of them becomes apparent immediately. She can read minds. And she is dangerous. The rest of the plot involves crackling action, exciting chases, and exhilarating escapes from close calls.
But the best things about the novel are the truly thought-provoking and difficult choices the characters must make and the reader should consider: Would you want Rachel's powers? Would they be a blessing or a curse? If you could read others' minds, how would you choose to use that power? Can you imagine how other human beings would respond to you if they were to learn that you have that power?
Finally, another element of the characterizations and the plot demonstrates the differences between this novel and others that are superficially similar. Here, the characters -- even those with extra-human powers -- are well-rounded and sympathetic -- real human beings, good and bad, strong and weak. And the bittersweet ending is extraordinarily touching.
"Runner" is a fine and fascinating piece of work.
Please note: This review is based on the final hardcover book provided by Minotaur Books for review purposes.
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