Lazlo Zalezac is a most interesting author for me. His politics are widely skewed from mine, though I agree with him about some things. I find them both wildly idealistic and painfully pragmatic. His sense of humor falls a little flat to me, to the point that some of his stories like the Donaldsons series are hard for me to dredge through (not that they are bad, just that they don't do much for me).
However, when Lazlo is at the top of his game he is one of the top authors on the site, IMHO. 'Millionaire Next Door', 'Thunder and Lightening', and 'Hunter' are proofs of point.
'Hunter' is an extremely political story that fearlessly strikes on one of the biggest controversies in the last decade, that of security versus liberty/privacy (for future reference, Mr. TSA, it's appropriate to buy me dinner before things get that intimate). I won't really go into my views, as it is irrelevant and an inappropriate forum, but it's pretty safe to say that I don't agree with the views reflected in this story. It's in the nature of literature to preach the author's viewpoints to differing levels of subtlety and bluntness (as anyone who has read Terry Goodkind can attest to), but there is a distinct level of politicizing and preaching I can absorb (whether I agree with the views or not) before I generally have to walk away from the story. The fact that, despite the overt levels in this story and my differing viewpoints, I loved the story speaks to how well put together it was.
Characterization has always been hit or miss for Lazlo's stories, as the characters do tend to be a bit idealized caricatures. This story is no different. The characters are well fleshed, but sometimes I find their actions a bit of a stretch which does hinder suspension of disbelief. That said, the characters were distinct and flowed well for the most part, though some of the minor characters were a bit two-dimensional.
I'm a big believer in the most interesting way to build a story is to put your characters into situations, horribly torture them (whether physically, morally, or mentally), and watch to see what happens. How your characters react to what horrible things happen to them is a large part of what makes a story interesting. Lazlo doesn't typically bring this theory to his stories, and his characters have to love him because they have it so easy. Mike Bowman, the protagonist in this piece, is the exception though. For someone that hasn't brought a lot of this to other stories, he sure made up a lot of ground here. This is probably why I feel that Mike Bowman is the most fully formed character to come from any of Lazlo's stories. His moral dilemmas as the story progressed brought a lot of empathy to all sides of this tale. One point in particular (you will know where I'm talking about, but I won't spoil) I remember having to read three times because I couldn't believe that it happened, particularly with such harsh abruptness.
The plot, without giving too much away, follows the thought of what might have happened if the Islamic Jihad against the US had continued to sharply and constantly escalate after 9/11. It presents a very plausible scenario for the early part the century with such religious conflict as many people (including experts) feared. Exploring that future with the protagonist was both scary (because of the plausibility) and thought provoking. I think that it gave me a little bit more sympathy for the people making the hard decisions in the real world because it really illuminates the type of no-win environment that terrorism and religious/political polarization do create. In the end, I thought the resulting solutions were both impracticably simplistic and exaggeratedly effective. That said, who am I to say.
Technically, there were a few errors and such issues that caught my eye, but it wasn't gratuitous. There was no stroke content to speak of, nor would it likely have seemed appropriate in this story.
This story was the first story from Lazlo that I felt the urgency and the passion through the preaching. In my eyes, this story is much stronger than his better known John Carter universe, and really shows his growth to better stories. Some of his stories (particularly the ones intended to be humorous) do nothing for me, but the more he has released the more attention I pay to new postings from him. When he hits the right subject matter it can be an enthralling story. Lately, he's been hitting that mark quite often. While those of you with strong opinions on...well, virtually anything...should be forewarned about what you are getting into with this story, no matter what your opinions are I suggest reading this story. If nothing else, it will give you something to think about while you are inhaling the thrilling ride.
Lazlo is one of the few authors on SOL that takes a perverse pleasure in pushing social norms with his writing, and Hunter is no exception. In Hunter, he takes us to an alternate reality, in which America is fighting for its very existence, as terrorists bring the war to US soil. Caught at the forefront is Mike Bowman, a CIA analyst. Follow him as he struggles to do his part to ensure America's survival.
Let me first state that there is very little sex in this story. If you're looking for a stroke story then you will want to look elsewhere.
Now, the good bits. Lazlo's writing style in Hunter reminds me of WEB Griffin. He creates a frighteningly realistic world with a future that readers can imagine happening. He draws you into his characters, and you'll find yourself cringing with their sorrow and smiling at their joy.
I gave the plot a 9 because I found it to be excellent in design but a little surreal. It is rather frightening to think that we walk a fine line between where we are and how close we are to experiencing the reality Lazlo has created.
I gave the technical quality an 8 because of some typos and grammatical errors. Overall, Lazlo has a strong writing style that improves with every story.