Book Review: The Bayern Agenda: Book One of the Galactic Cold War by Dan Moren

The Bayern Agenda: Book One of the Galactic Cold War by Dan Moren
My rating: 🌟🌟🌟 (3 stars)
Publisher: Angry Robot (March 2019)

This had a bit of a slow start that while mildly interesting was more focused on making sure the reader knows that the characters have good banter and prior history. I didn't mind that but it seemed to almost eclipse the set up of the thing that, according to the title is the bigger deal: The Bayern Agenda also known as, the plot. For the first 20% or so there's nary a mention or seemingly any urgency by Kovalic, his ops team or handlers to do something, anything with the scant intel they got from the asset who was killed in the opening of the story. I was a more than a bit surprised that that great opener wasn't capitalized on.

Around chapter 16 things started to pick up with regard to the plot. The Interludes were most interesting and gave insight into Kovalic and his history and I found myself wishing there was more of that. Page and Ehrich were a couple of the more interesting characters here too. Much of the working out of the plot is haltingly laid out and related so ploddingly that when finally in chapter 21, a character asks "Does he (Kovalic) always talk in riddles like this?" I yelled at the book "YES and it's been annoying me too!". This confirmed the stalling tactic in the writing was a feature and not a bug and it did nothing to assure that what there was to come of the plot was going to be worth this ride.

The narration was mostly Omniscient Third but is constantly interspersed with the inner monologue of the Eli character when he's in a scene. It made for awkward reading. He's not the main character of the book blurb, Simon Kovalic, so it made me question why we needed to head hop into this guy's running thoughts and worse, it didn't improve the reading. I kept feeling like he was interrupting the story with his unnecessary prattling on and they weren't even hitting high on the wit meter. I mean, let him prattle on but don't make readers have to go with it. Why is the inside of his head so important here? Why not Simon, Page or Nat? It felt like one more thing to take up time instead of getting on with the story. Not fun. Really not fun.

Whilst reading I kept thinking about The Expanse books by James S.A. Corey and it was unfortunate because I was also reminded I'd found those characters and story pace was more enjoyable even without the densest plot. I think this book has the bones of a good story but it was too enamoured with its attempts at coolness it never bothers much to get into it. If the banter & Eli's inner monologues were cut by a third and the plot tightened up and given that third this could have been quite fantastic. Three stars because it felt more middling than just okay.

Many thanks to the publisher for the Advanced Reader Copy.

Summary: A new Cold War threatens the galaxy, in this fast-paced and wisecracking thriller of spies and subterfuge.
Simon Kovalic, top intelligence operative for the Commonwealth of Independent Systems, is on the frontline of the burgeoning Cold War with the aggressive Illyrican Empire. He barely escapes his latest mission with a broken arm, and vital intel which points to the Empire cozying up to the Bayern Corporation: a planet-sized bank. There's no time to waste, but with Kovalic out of action, his undercover team is handed over to his ex-wife, Lt Commander Natalie Taylor. When Kovalic's boss is tipped off that the Imperium are ready and waiting, it's up to the wounded spy to rescue his team and complete the mission before they're all caught and executed.

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