America is divided… literally. California and some other west coast states have formed the liberal Commonwealth of California. Texas has seceded. What remains of the Midwest and East Coast is plunged into a dystopian world characterized by huge disparities in wealth and psychological control. Stoking the fear and obedience of the masses is Trucast, the only remaining media conglomerate. More so than any other force, they dominate the will of the people. They control what is and isn’t truth. And, if you don’t conduct yourself according to this dark society’s expectations, you might just find yourself murdered… live on broadcast television, like a Cops episode taken to the extreme.
Taylor Evans is part of an elite task force of… well, for lack of a better term, assassins. The Eagle’s Hammer, the task force, was formed after a bomb attack wiped out the capitol in D.C. Devastated and spiritless, the people needed hope. And so, The Eagles Hammer was formed to hunt down the perpetrators of the attack. Their hunt and execution of the domestic terrorists was shown live on television each night. The show was hugely popular. People tuned in each night to feel the vindication of justice.
Then, all the terrorists were executed. What next? The show was too good. The ratings were too good. The control of the populace was… well, too good. And so, The Eagle’s Hammer turned its sights on other criminals. And when those real criminals ran dry, the sights were turned on ordinary citizens guilty (or not guilty) of minor infractions. People continued to tune in… not for the entertainment or justice. No, they tuned in out of fear… fear that it would be their home on the live broadcast… fear that it would be them receiving “justice” at the talons of The Eagle’s Hammer.
Taylor Evans lived a luxurious life as the leader of the The Eagle’s Hammer. He had fame, money, and a trophy wife. The only tradeoff? He’d killed hundreds of people… people he knew who were only vaguely guilty or not really guilty at all. Then, one night, when the order to kill comes through his earpiece he says, “No.” His protest is broadcast live. People are shocked. And Taylor Evans… he goes on the run. He has to. By uttering one small word, he’s made himself the next target of The Eagle’s Hammer. His jealous and vindictive teammates are all too happy to have him as their prey.
And from here the story really takes off in a very satisfying way. Everything that follows will leave the reader wondering… is this an act of Evan’s freewill or is even his rebellion scripted by TruCast?
I’ll admit that lately I haven’t been reading very much. I’ve kept myself busy with various creative projects – woodworking, filmmaking – but I just haven’t had the attention span to read a book. Then, I came across a copy of The Eagle’s Hammer, and I was hooked from the first chapter. I finished it in five days, which is a record for me lately. Kugler knows how to plot a novel, while at the same time creating a conflicted character. Kugler can also write action sequences, and the only word I can think (and thought it many times while reading) to describe his writing ability is: cinematic.
“Dead ahead of us now,” Kugler writes, “is city hall. The massive, ornate building sits at the city’s center, and we turn onto Penn Square. Sliding around the corner, it’s a quick jaunt before we’re both cutting our wheels the other way, circling the building. We collide again, our fenders mangled and mashed as CJ tries pushing me into the curb. But these hammermobiles are beasts.
We slingshot down Rizzo Boulevard, side by side, racing toward Trucast Tower. Desperate, CJ slams into me. And then again. Both of us, our vehicles are pushing a hundred miles per hour when our fenders lock up.
Me, I fight the steering wheel to stay in control.
What happens next happens fast…”
That’s just a taste of the high-impact action writing that awaits you in The Eagle’s Hammer. You’ll get a healthy dose of hand-to-hand combat, shoot outs, and ample explosions, as well.
But, the book isn’t just about the violence and action. It raises interesting questions about the nature of overreaching surveillance versus personal privacy. It makes one question the nature of media and its ability to twist lies into some perverse version of the truth. We see it now in our own world as media moguls deliver news that spins information like a washing machine. Do you really know all the details behind the Ukraine invasion? Is the pandemic truly over, or did someone simply decide to make it so through reporting? Has truth come down to conviction? What we believe is the truth is the truth, and it’s easy to find some “reputable” news outlet that supports our version of what we want the truth to be. News outlets chase ratings, and so how a story is delivered has the sole goal of keeping the audience coming back for more. They want you to believe that if you don’t return the next night, it could be a matter of life and death. We might miss something that could save us.
They make us feel that we are at risk if we aren’t constantly consuming news. In Kugler’s novel, the risk is very real, but the sense of risk is no less real to us… and so we return so as to be “informed” and ever fearful.
From a writer’s perspective alone, it’s worth reading The Eagle’s Hammer just to witness Kugler’s strategic, though occasional use, of second person perspective, as Evans addresses a woman viewer as “you” … describing to her what she’s experiencing as she tunes in each night:
“Now, decades later, you’re sitting in your living room, your husband by your side, watching as the team’s supersonic scramjet lands within their target’s city limits – it looks to be Baltimore, and you breathe a sigh of relief: they’re not after you, not tonight. A cargo ramp extends, and each team member charges out in their own heavily armored hammermobile…”
The reoccurring references to the unnamed “you” are a part of what makes this book work so well.
My guess, you’ll enjoy this book from its first page right up to its perfect ending.
Purchase a copy: here
Your Reviewer: Jeff Vande Zande teaches English at Delta College. He is the author of five novels... his latest being a dystopian entitled Rules of Order, which you can purchase: here