Book Review Catalyst by Paul Byers

catalyst-front-300Title: Catalyst

Author: Paul Byers

Genre: World War II Spy Thriller

Rating: 8/10

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In the waning months of World War II, the allied armies advance upon the crumbling German war machine like a juggernaut. In a final desperate bid to save the Fatherland, a plan is conceived that could turn the tide of the war-the completion of an advanced jet-propelled bomber capable of delivering a deadly payload to the shores of America.

Captain Griff Avery of the OSS has just botched the defection of a prominent German physicist, a man crucial to the Nazi end game, letting him fall into the hands of the rogue SS General masterminding the plot. But Avery’s troubles have only just begun: overwhelming evidence points to the woman he loves as the German spy who foiled the defection.

Now under suspicion himself, Avery sifts through the lies and deceit, uncovering the treacherous German operation. Against orders and on the run, Avery is forced to wage a secret war of his own, recruiting the crew of a B-17 Flying Fortress and a reckless group of flyboys and their P-51 Mustangs to help him hunt down the secret SS cell and prevent the slaughter-no matter what the cost.

Despite my intial thoughts, formed halfway through chapter four, I ended up liking Catalyst. At the start, the writing was a little clumsy, the characters were shallow and the romance was unconvincing, but then things started to change and it all sort of clicked. I had trouble getting through the first fifty pages, but then I really got into the story, things started to move forward, and the thriller part of the novel began to take shape.

Avery is an endaring character, and I liked how he struggled at the start at losing his men and how he grew afraid to help Anna when she was mugged, but did it anyway. It gave him an interesting personality. You wouldn’t expect a war hero to be afraid of petty criminals, and it made him intriguing that he was. My only concern was that the other characters were much less interesting than Avery was. The secondary characters lacked distinct personality traits. They all had their unique voice, a great feat in and on itself, but I would’ve preferred if they had distinct personalities too.

I loved the plot. It reminded me of movies like Valkyrie, which I enjoyed very much, and Inglorious Bastards, which I enjoyed a great deal less because of the blood and violence. Talking about blood and violence, you can’t really escape that in a World War II book, but it didn’t bother me here. It fitted in with the story and wasn’t unnecessary.

There’s a part about prison camps that made me feel terribly uneasy, because it was well written and really made me picture the character at the scene.

As a lover of all things to do with airplanes and aircraft, I liked the more technical aspects of the book that dealt with aircraft, but I imagine this might be less interesting and maybe even a little boring for people not interested in this sort of thing.

By the end of the book, I was biting my nails trying to figure out how it would all end, so it definitely got the thriller aspect right. If you’re looking for a great World War II read without the gore and violence, Catalyst is a great choice. It’s a bit long though (300 pages, but it read like a longer book) and it’s the kind of book that demands you take your time with it.

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