The Ninth Orphan by James and Lance Morcan

By Ekta R. Garg

February 29, 2012

Rated: Borrow it

A man genetically engineered by a covert organization sets out to gain his freedom.  But when his mentors decide the secret information he is carrying needs to be retrieved, the man begins running for his life and sets off a manhunt across Europe.  In the spirit of all great spy stories, The Ninth Orphan by father-son team James and Lance Morcan offers readers familiar elements in a mostly enjoyable package.

Nine was one of 23 children created in a laboratory for optimal physical, mental, and psychological attributes.  As a key part of the Pedemont Project, the children belong to the Omega Agency.  The Omega Agency’s main agenda is to rule the New World Order, and the children are the agents who carry out the Agency’s operations toward that end.

To keep the children from forming any emotional connections to one another or anyone else, each one is referred to and addressed by their birth order number.  While Nine and the other orphans have received training in the best of all possible fields, Nine has decided he has had enough.  He wants out, and after obtaining information on a large repository of wealth hidden in the Philippines Nine decides to barter the maps and coordinates for money for his freedom.

His supervisors are livid and deploy all their best resources to rein in Nine, including Seventeen, the female orphan who has competed with the elder orphan all her life and has strived to be better than him in every trial and every challenge put before them.  They trace Nine to Paris and begin the meticulous job of searching for him and trying to destroy him.

The authors provide readers with a spy story reminiscent of James Bond and Jason Bourne: lots of high-tech gadgetry, beautiful women, and ruthless enemies capable of absolutely anything to achieve their personal goals.  James and Lance Morcan’s story has some good moments in Nine’s shape-shifting abilities, and some of the attributes of the Omega Agency do sound somewhat true to life.

Unfortunately the book suffers from exaggerated length.  What starts as a taut thriller slowly loosens into a story that could leave its readers tapping toes in impatience.  The book could have used the deft hand of a skilled editor to trim about 50 pages (or even more) from the middle.  When Nine begins changing locations with Isabelle in tow, it is clear after the third or fourth disguise change that this section is more about showing off his chameleon-like skills than furthering the plot.

And while readers may sympathize with Nine’s desire for freedom from the Omega Agency, the authors never really explain how Nine made the decision in the first place.  People trapped in oppressive situations find themselves at a tipping point one day that forces their hand; they undergo “the final straw” that pushes them to make the decision to leave and then pushes them to execute that leave-taking.  The Morcans don’t share in an obvious way with readers that light bulb moment that Nine experiences, and for someone with his kind of hardcore training a light bulb moment is absolutely necessary.

The end, too, doesn’t live up to the grand premise offered by the Morcan team.  The authors choose the easy route for a denouement, opting for a quick resolution and a neat ending.  Because of the fast pacing usually required spy stories are difficult to execute well in the written word, lending themselves more easily to film.  The Ninth Orphan isn’t always able to keep the pace at the right speed, but readers may still enjoy it as a light weekend read.  I recommend it as such.

***

What the ratings mean:

Bookmark it!–Read this book and then buy it and add it to to your own collection.  It’s definitely worth it!

Borrow it–Check this one out from the library; it’s a worthy read, but think twice before spending your hard-earned money on it.

Bypass it–Free time is precious.  Don’t spend it on this book!

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