Monday, August 18, 2008

The Overlord Protocol by Mark Walden

After an in-flight explosion sends Otto Malpense sailing chaotically through the night sky and plummeting toward the earth at breakneck speed, Otto tries desperately to slow his descent. Due to the pitch blackness, illuminated only by burning debris, Otto must completely rely on his instruments and calculations to hit his drop zone accurately, knowing one mistake means imminent death and that he’ll never learn who is responsible for the murder of his best friend, Wing Fanchu.

Well, there’s your prologue. But don’t worry, the pace picks up after that.

Chapter 1 then introduces a new character, Cypher, a mysterious masked supervillain (what supervillain isn’t mysterious?) at a meeting of the Global League of Villainous Enterprises, or G.L.O.V.E., also attended by Dr. Nero, H.I.V.E.’s headmaster. Cypher openly challenges Dr. Nero’s authority at H.I.V.E., and there is an attempt on Dr. Nero’s life after the meeting.

Chapter 2 then flashes back to one week earlier. It is now 6 months into Otto’s first year at the Higher Institute of Villainous Education. After their unsuccessful escape in book one, Otto, Shelby, Laura, and Wing are still enrolled, learning the ins and outs of villainy. When Wing learns of the death of his father, he is excused to attend the funeral and is allowed to take a friend – Otto. Suddenly they are allowed to leave H.I.V.E. and the protection it provides.

Readers are also introduced to events from 15 years earlier. Dr. Nero was working on Project Overlord, a highly sophisticated computer, one with evolutionary capabilities. Despite all attempts to prevent it, within seconds the computer evolves into a higher intelligence, shuts down the laboratory, and threatens the lives of all present. Overlord doesn’t succeed, and all...remnants...are...destroyed.

Which brings us back to Otto’s midnight dive through the night sky. Yes, he successfully lands beneath the earth’s surface (I’ll let you figure that one out) and yes, he encounters Wing’s murderer. He also discovers mercilessly trained and tireless assassins, twelve-foot murdering robots, an ingeniously hidden stronghold, and a plot to overthrow H.I.V.E. and ultimately kill Dr. Nero.

In the end the mystery of Wing’s necklace pendant and his connection to Dr. Nero is solved. (And no, it’s not a “Luke, I am your father” solution either.) Shelby and Laura, Otto and Wing’s classmates from book one, are back. They reaffirm their devotion to their friends and put their incredible talents to good use.

Mark Walden again weaves a story that moves with the speed of Otto’s descent and includes enough explosions, gunfire, double crosses, and near escapes (not to mention the jaw-dropping, you-gotta-be-kidding-me ending) to keep fans eager for book three of the H.I.V.E. series.

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