Ah, Matt Helm, my old nemesis. We meet again. Once again you cleverly present one of your adventures from the 1980’s as being a modern one, using just a reprint and hoping that we don’t notice. But I’m on to you. You see Matt Helm, I have something you could never have imagined at my disposal – Google.
Despite all my joking, the Matt Helm novels are largely inoffensive. And that in itself is very offensive to me. They feature the ace-spy Matt Helm as a kind of discount James Bond, but to be honest, there’s nothing much that Matt Helm does any better than Bond, and at the end of the day, the Bond films have largely outstripped the value of their novels anyway. Matt has picked up quite a few of Bond’s bad habits – the womanizing, the women in his life constantly dying or being placed into danger, etc etc. The Annihilators carries on this proud tradition with a terrorist group from a generic South American island nation kidnapping and holding Helm’s girlfriend as a hostage so that he will carry out an assassination of their choosing. Gripping stuff, I wonder if he wins in the end.
The only upside of the novel that made it interesting in any way was a slight departure into the supernatural at some stage – minor involvement of ESP and other such topics as a plot twist. However, this wasn’t nearly enough to save the novel in my opinion, which is bloated and filled with far too many pages as it is.
This whole Matt Helm series of novels is great for some mindless enjoyment, and perhaps if you’re from an older generation you’ll have a soft spot for his pulp antics, but it does nothing new, exciting or better than what’s come before. It’s death by mediocrity, and I, for one, felt like I was just counting pages to the end of it. The Annihilators is number 20 something in this series, but the fact that they all blend into one for me after a while is indicative of their failings to me on a larger level.
If you’re into vintage spy thrillers, give The Annihilators a go. It doesn’t offer much to anyone else except the death of a tree to print it.