The Activity: Volume 1

The Activity: Volume 1 is technically fiction, but that’s only because the subject matter is so top secret that there is no way to know exactly what the facts are.  Hence, Nathan Edmondson wrote a realistic account of the types of missions that this secret specialized unit does while we, the people of the United States, are safe at home.  The inside flap of the book led me to believe that this  book was about the mission that led to the death of Osama Bin Laden, so I was a little disappointed in the fact it never got there.  Looking back, I see now that the person who wrote the forward to this book was the one who wrote about the Bin Laden mission (No Easy Day: The Firsthand Account of the Mission that Killed Osama Bin Laden), but his recommendation holds a lot of weight, along with his verification of the factual details.

Other than my confusion about the book’s subject matter, I was completely pleased with the book.  It describes a top secret group of specialists pulled from all branches of the military that go on special intelligence gathering missions around the world, along with clean-up operations, and although vague, what appear to be assassinations or helping others to assassinate drug lords and  tyrants.  This agency is referred to in the book as the ISA (Intelligence Support Activity, hence the title), but in the notes, the author indicates that the name of the group changes every year or two so that members of the government and military can’t keep track of them – except, of course, those who are on a need to know basis. This is Volume 1 of a The Activity book series; as of this writing, there are 15 more volumes available.

One part of the book shocked me, and I found it hard to believe, and that was the part of the story where the members of this group found one of their own tied up in the basement of a bar in a foreign land, and instead of rescuing him, they shot him in the head and poured some type of chemical substance on his face so that he wouldn’t be able to be identified.  They were so nonchalant about this act that I kept thinking that I was missing something.  They aren’t portrayed as cold and callous in other situations; they take the deaths of team members very hard.  It’s a mystery to me why they didn’t just take him with them, but their mission was to clean up the situation, and maybe they had intelligence stating that he was a double agent or that he had given information or something.  A few scenes like that were left too vague for my tastes.

Most of the scenes were believable, intense, and exciting, especially knowing that these things are going on all over the world.  The technology was also skirting the edge in terms of what’s possible in the general public, but it is believable that it would be available to the military.  This book would surely appeal to male teens who are reluctant to read.  It’s fast-paced with excellent graphics to keep them interested, and it’s not dumbed down.  The description and dialogue are realistic and more mature sounding than a lot of the graphic novels I’ve looked at.

The book is a little hard to follow, and I think there should have been more of an underlying plot holding all of the little episodes together.  Most of their missions are anticlimactic, which makes them more realistic, but also leaves the reader hanging.  The book just ends without much being resolved; it’s a collection of episodes that don’t flow together, and after the last one, it just stops.  Most teens wouldn’t be troubled by this fact, though, and some who have a hard time focusing might find that the short episodes are easier to follow.  This book should be a part of any library that works with teens; they would undoubtedly find it a quick and compelling read, and they would learn a little something as well.

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