‘The Night Ranger’ fails as a story, adventure
Alex Berenson’s novel “The Night Ranger” aims to be a thrilling tale of a one-man army busting into hostile territory in the name of America, but there are some big problems that leave the book boring instead of action-packed, as it aims to achieve. Four college graduates have volunteered in Kenya to help take care of the Somali refugees flooding into the country. Disaster strikes, though, when they are kidnapped and held in an unknown location. Naturally, this sends the world into mass hysteria, especially since they do not know who the culprits are or what their demands are. Enter John Wells, a retired CIA agent and all-around cool guy, who decides to pursue the hostages, rescue them, and kill some bad guys before the military gets involved.
Let’s start with the positives. “The Night Ranger” has a relatively unique plot, and dates itself with references giving the feeling that this could happen in the real world. In an attempt to keep the story fresh, every chapter has the focus shift between four or five characters, allowing the reader to see different sides of the conflict. The villain is one of these characters, and without spoiling anything, we get to see his motives for the kidnapping and it’s easy to see why he does it. I also really like Shafer, Wells’s sidekick, an old man who makes a lot of wisecracks.
Unfortunately, while the novel attempts to keep things interesting, it fails. When we see things from the hostage’s perspective, all that is gained is that it’s not fun to be a hostage. Not much action. The villain is interesting, but we see relatively little of him and he pretty much stays put with the hostages the whole time. Shafer, the best character, only communicates with Wells through phone and stays completely out of harm’s way for the entire book. This leaves Wells to carry everything else on his shoulders, and boy is it boring. Eighty percent of the book is Wells or someone else talking to people and trying to find out where the hostages are. They talk way too long, and it’s really boring. Not helping matters is the fact that there are very few quote tags. Not only is the structure repetitive, but it can be confusing figuring out who is talking. A simple “Wells said” every once in a while could fix this.
When we finally get to the action at the end of the book, it becomes brutal. Wells’s backstory revolves around becoming a ruthless killer. This all happens in flashback, though, so Wells can kill bad guys from beginning to end. This includes ruthless descriptions of people getting mutilated, eaten by hyenas, and torn limb from limb in an extremely gory way. There’s no character development, the most important thing for a main character. The only development comes from the hostages, whom we never see because Wells takes up everything. Besides being good at killing, Wells has no personality except for a few throwaway moments which quickly move out of the way for more killing and talking to people. The worst part is that Wells probably could do most of the mission non-lethally. It seems that these murders are only in the book because it needs to compensate for the boring talking sequences. “The Night Ranger” fails as a story and as an action-adventure. Just skip to the parts with Shafer.
Jeremy Farbman is a freshman at Mt. Lebanon High School.