I'm going to be brief here, thanks to my away-from-home-readathon last week, I'm very behind, and I don't have much to say about this one. I'm going to be vague, too -- because I just can't muster up enough enthusiasm to get too specific about the book (and if I did, I'd end up not being brief...)
This started off with a slightly disturbing and intriguing chapter involving torture, a distinctively tattooed man and an ancient artifact -- a white jade burial suit. Which was enough to get me interested, even if the scene was a told in a heavy-handed manner (and, for the record, I'm not that into torture scenes, but it does work at getting a reader's attention).
Sadly, the start was wasted by then turning to an uninteresting historical tour following the suit from its creation in the year 889 through its discovery by amateur archaeologists and eventual disappearance -- there was decent material there in a pulp-y sense, but Lang just didn't sell it. The suit shows up on the black market in the late 20th century, and that starts the dominoes falling to get us to the first scene.
When we return to the modern time, we meet a loser video game player who is "recruited" to join a private intelligence/criminal enterprise. Nothing about this storyline, the characters involved, or the way that the Chinese government uses them for Black Ops was believable, well-told, or interesting. Nothing.
We then get to the Hong Kong detectives investigating the brutal murder that happened following the initial torture scene. These guys are so clichéd, the interaction between them is so stiff, and the way they do their business is -- well, I just didn't like it.
Do you sense a trend?
There's not one character here that I want to spend any more time with -- strike that. The tattooed man has promise -- give me a book focusing on him -- or the hunt for him in other contexts -- I'd probably indulge in it (I might end up regretting the indulgence, but you never know).
The writing here was mediocre at best. The plotlines, the "twists", the incredible coincidences, etc. were pure melodrama -- and don't get me started on the denouement, I could do 500+ words on it alone, and I'd end up dropping my rating. The dialogue? Painful. Really painful -- like the kind of thing that Joel and the Bots (or Mike and the Bots, or Jonah and the Bots) should be mocking. Still, you give this one decent edit from someone with an ear for dialogue and another edit by someone focusing on cleaning out the plotlines and I can see where this would appeal to fans of Dan Brown and/or James Patterson.
There's a hint of a decent novel buried under a lot of nonsense here, I guess that's the best I can say. Your mileage may vary, but I wouldn't recommend it.
Disclaimer: I was provided with a copy of this by a friend of the author in exchange for this post, which was half-baked, I realize, and I feel bad for that. On the other hand, he may not want to see the fully-baked version.