*My connection to 24 is an odd one. I routinely rank it among the greatest television shows of all time and it catapulted Kiefer Sutherland to the ranks of my favorite actors. And it is the only television show that I have ever watched as appointment viewing, ie. Rearranged my schedule in order to get home in time to catch the new episode. As a child of the DVD era, I see little of interest in this kind of viewing, but with 24, I felt I was watching something significant and important unfold and I wanted to experience it with my fellow TV watchers.
*What makes this odd is that all of the above applies to only the first season. I managed to make it all the way through the first season of 24 missing only one episode, though I did have a truly terrifying near miss when plans spiraled out of control on me on the night, of all nights, when the SEASON FINALE aired. By the skin of my teeth, I made it in and saw justice arrive for Dennis Hopper yet again as it happened, thank God.
*But the grueling energy required to watch a TV show with that much dedication just shattered me. I actually hadn’t anticipated a second season; by the end of the first season, the writers were already stretching and it struck me as more of a one time event than a regular old television series. So, I let the show drop off my radar, though I’ve been vaguely aware of things like the time jumps between seasons and such. Most spoilers I’ve stayed away from; since this isn’t a show that one can watch in syndication or randomly, I haven’t seen a full episode of 24 since the season finale of Day One.
*Why haven’t I watched it on DVD? Beats me. I’ve always intended too, but kept putting it off. Well, no more.
*On the 24 wikia, I’ve found what amounts to a timeline. It’s non-specific, since the show refuses to be pinned down to any particular years. However, it includes, not only the series, but the novels, comics, games and internet only mini-series that have been released as tie-ins to the series itself.
*And so, I am to correct a deficit in my obsession. The first season of 24 was one of the greatest seasons of television I’ve ever seen, the final two episodes making one of the finest two parters in television history and Sutherland’s performance, in particular in those final two episodes just about turned my idea of acting on television upside down.
*Why so many timeline projects from me, you ask? Well, it’s a way to motivate myself. I want to watch all of 24, but without a project to drive me, I’ll just trickle through them at some unspecified date in the future. But when I find a timeline for a universe that a legitimately want to work through, it’s an easy way to start myself on a project I’ve been wanting to do in one way or another anyway.
*I hope all you 24 fanatics will join me on my journey through this universe with your comments, though hopefully mostly spoiler free since I haven’t seen much of the show. I hope, most of all, that you enjoy my ramblings.
*So, let’s get started with the first thing on the timeline.
*I should point out that when I started this project with reading the books and writing these reviews, the 24 wiki timeline was different than it is now. They’ve changed it up and, I think, improved it, but occasionally I may have to explain a reference to an earlier novel or whatever because I originally read these in different order than I’m now posting the reviews. Make sense? Hope so.
*So, this book takes place, according to the timeline, seven and a half years prior to Day One.
*So, this book is structured in flashback, so that it begins with Jack being debriefed by Richard Walsh and then proceeds to tell the story. This just seems lazy to me.
*So, this one starts at 5 AM.
*So, in our first plot, Jack is assisting the DEA with a raid on an old movie studio, where a new super-meth drug called Karma is being manufactured; the raid goes predictably badly, but Jack helps them pull it out and they end up catching all the bad guys.
*Meanwhile, there’s this dude named Richard Lesser who’s a huge computer genius/hacker and he’s vanished into Mexico where he is purportedly in meetings with a terrorist named Hasan. Tony Almeida and a computer tech from CTU, name of Fay Hubley, are headed into Mexico undercover as scam artists to try to hook up with Lesser before he can meet with Hasan.
*And then there’s Teri, who is apparently going to get her own plot in this book. Apparently, she worked on a movie that has been nominated for a “Silver Screen Award,” and she’s been invited to attend the ceremony with the cast and crew.
*So, then this old friend of Jack’s from the LAPD, Detective Castalano, calls Jack in for an opinion on a murder. A film producer named Hugh Vetri has been murdered via torture and disembowelment and his entire family and staff killed as they slept.
*So, Teri was apparently a freelance assistant for a background artist on an animated feature. I didn’t know she did that kind of stuff, or had forgotten. Also, I seriously doubt a freelance assistant for a background artist would be scoring tickets to this universe’s version of the Oscars.
*Jack and Teri share some dialogue about their wonderful daughter: “Kim and I can get take out pizza.” “Great. But don’t get pepperoni. Kim’s a vegetarian again.” “Since when?” “Since I cooked meatloaf last night.”
*Milo says “w00t.” Outloud he says it. Does anyone actually do that?
*So, a crazed guy shows up in Hugh Vetri’s car and sideswipes a bus filled with church kids and sends it spiraling down the mountain to burst into flames. He’s caught by the police, but not before he literally rips the jugular out of a highway patrolman. Turns out he’s flying high on Karma.
*Tony, meanwhile, has hooked up with his contact, Ray Dobyns, down in Mexico, but he’s doublecrossed and captured by some drug dealers. Fay Hubley is, quite shockingly, raped and murdered by three of them.
*So, all the Day One regulars are here in substantial roles. Milo and Jamey are scouring Hugh Vetri’s computer for evidence and monitoring Richard Lesser online. Ryan Chappelle stalks around being an ass. Nina occasionally pops in to say a line. And Doris Soo Min, introduced in Operation Hell Gate, also appears.
*Editor’s Note: Of course, when I read these books and originally wrote some of these reviews, the timeline indicated that Operation Hell Gate came before Trojan Horse. They’ve flipped them now. So, now it’s Trojan Horse that introduces Doris Soo Min, not Operation Hell Gate. That is all.
*Jack gets Castalano to transfer Vetri’s killer, Ibn Farad, to CTU’s custody. But as they’re transporting him from the LAPD holding cell to CTU, the convoy is attacked by a load of Saudi Arabian special forces and Ibn Farad is snatched.
*There’s an interesting moment when Jack says a line about the purpose of terrorism and Nina asks him who he’s quoting. Jack says that he’s quoting Victor Drezen. Nina changes the subject.
*So, turns out this bad guy calls himself Hasan because he’s using Karma to brainwash people into becoming suicidal terrorists, in much the same way the historical Hasan Sabah started his cult of hashishans by brainwashing people with hashish. This, of course, is the root of our word ‘assassins.’
*So, Milo gets sent down to Mexico to meet up with Tony and Fay when Ryan finds out that Milo went to grad school with Lesser. Milo arrives and, after finding Fay Hubley’s brutally mutilated body in the bathtub of her room, meets up with Lesser who is coming to turn himself in.
*Lesser claims he’s turning himself in because he’s figured out that Hasan is completely crazy and that he has a virus that Lesser made for him that will completely kill all technology in the world via some sort of technobabble that I didn’t understand any better than Cerasini did probably.
*Cerasini really nails Lesser’s voice. He’s my favorite character in this book, an arrogant jerk with wit to the bone. You can practically hear every intonation as you read.
*So, then we find out, via some ‘cute’ banter between a couple of White House aides, that the Vice President’s wife and the First Lady of Russia (?) are going to be attending the Silver Screen Awards. So, actually, I guess this is much more prestigious than the Oscars.
*Jack tracks down Ibn Farad; the Saudi special forces have taken him to his father, a Saudi Deputy Minister. His father is planning to try to smuggle him out of the country, but then the bad guys show up and decide to silence Ibn Farad, since he knows too much. Cue up rampaging gun battle; Ibn Farad bites it, but Jack manages to escape the bad guys. Before Ibn Farad dies, however, he is able to give Jack one name.
*So we get a really lovely torture scene of Tony being shocked repeatedly.
*So, Milo refuses to take Lesser out of the country and back to CTU if he has to leave Tony in enemy hands. So, Lesser’s bodyguard, a Hell’s Angels type, comes up with a plan and he and Milo manage to bust Tony out of the warehouse where he’s being held and burn about half the city down.
*There’s a great scene where a psychological expert explains brainwashing and someone pipes up that it sounds like battered spouse syndrome. The expert then says that, yes, abusive spouses have basically been just naturally and instinctively using methods of brainwashing all down through time, methods that the ‘experts’ only figured out fairly recently.
*So, Jack and Nina go to follow up on the name Ibn Farad gave Jack as he died. Cue various action sequences, including a woman who keeps throwing knives in her hair. Nina ends up taking one of them away from her and sticking it in the assassin’s throat.
*In the aftermath of this moment, there’s a nice vague reference to Nina’s real status here: “In that brief moment, he saw a cruel glint in Nina’s eyes he’d never seen before. It was gone in a flash – so quickly he thought he’d imagined it.” Just for an instant, the cold blooded killer who finally makes good at the end of Day One comes to the fore.
*Meanwhile, there’s this Secret Service agent named Craig Auburn that we keep cutting back to. He’s helping supervise security set up at the Auditorium where the Silver Screen Awards will be held.
*I actually really, really enjoyed his plot, which makes two secondary characters I actually got interested and invested in, in this book. He keeps sort of almost figuring out that something is going wrong, but he can’t quite get his finger on it. He keeps having these feelings, but then everything looks fine on paper, so he keeps moving on, missing by only a hair’s breadth a couple of times a discovery that might foil the villains’ plans. This made him quite likable and I always enjoyed his little scenes.
*So, anyway Milo delivers Lesser to Ryan at CTU. Tony has chosen to stay behind and take care of some clean up; this entails walking into the bad guys’ base of operation and essentially murdering six people, including the guy who betrayed him. This last guy, Tony actually shoots as he is on his knees pleading for his life. That Almeida is cold, man.
*So, anyway, information gathered at the place where Nina went all knife crazy reveals plans that revolve around the Terrence Alton Chamberlain Auditorium. At this point, they are like eighteen minutes away from the Silver Screen Awards actually starting.
*The awards starts, terrorists pop out of the woodwork all over, via various schemes that I’m not going to go into here, and Lesser turns out to be a double agent. He releases a monster virus into CTU and then eats the top button of his shirt, which turns out to be a cyanide pill.
*Secret Service Agent Craig Auburn ends up barricaded in the basement with the VP’s wife and the Russian First Lady (??) and the two cute interns from before. Then he starts having a heart attack.
*I confess that, by this point, I was very invested in his survival, so I guess Cerasini figured out a way to make that work.
*Of course one of the people Teri is sitting with in the auditorium starts giving birth and crap, so that’s fun and she kind of gets her own little plot.
*Anyway, SWAT and FBI and CTU and all that are outside the auditorium and Milo figures out a way around Lesser’s virus based on something Milo knew about him in grad school.
*A little nobody on the CTU team remembers hearing about some bomb shelters under the auditorium and he tells Jack about it. This is a great scene as it slowly builds from this little nobody, a completely unimportant drone, remembering this important detail to him nervously telling Jack and then being entirely forgotten as everyone whips into action. At the end of the scene, he calmly walks away, having done his part, to be forgotten.
*This guy, I have been informed, is important. His name is Edgar Stiles and I assume that he shows up on the show later.
*The terrorists are Chechen liberation fighters, did I ever mention that? Not that it matters.
*At some point, they figure out who the main guy in the auditorium is and it turns out to be a guy who helped train Victor Drezen’s Black Dogs. Jack mutters, “Drezen again.” Nina coolly asks if he knew Drezen. Jack responds that he read some files about him.
*There is a reference during all this to the Moscow Theater Hostage Crisis, which is noted as having taken place some time prior to this story. This puts this book explicitly after October of 2002.
*So, Nightfall is definitely two years before Day One; and Jack joins CTU definitely in 2000, so this means that by the end of 2002, Day One should have actually already happened. Probably.
*Anyway, they get into the auditorium through the basement; Jack takes some snipers up to take out the gunmen and several female CTU agents in evening dress sneak into the auditorium to take out the female suicide bombers scattered throughout the hostages.
*All goes well and Cerasini tells it well. He can write good action. And really this whole sequence is very suspenseful.
*And then, Jack having figured out where Hasan, the mastermind is located, we get our final chapter, which is just three pages and is basically just Hasan chilling in his underground base and then suddenly from outside someone says, “You’re surrounded.”
*Much as I liked the whole Silver Screen sequence, this ending is just utterly anti-climactic and goofy. If that’s all he had room for, Cerasini should have just let the guy get away.
*And then we get a brief wrap up of Walsh finishing his debriefing of Jack.
*This was pretty good. It had Cerasini’s good action and suspense writing, but it also had some characters I could actually invest in and care about, in Lesser and Auburn. And the way the plot unfolded was better too.
** ½ out of **** stars.
*Next time, it’s another Cerasini novel, Operation Hell Gate. Yeah, they just flipped those two on the timeline. We’ll see what happens as we get a couple of years closer to Day One.