Like many kids in the 1980s, my first exposure to action movies came from the muscle ripped Rambo. Overnight, adolescent males across America begged their parents for cheaply made survival knives and anything displaying a sweaty, angry man wielding a machine gun. At the time, I thought Rambo the coolest guy in the world, and then I discovered The Outlaw Josey Wales. After Wales, my life changed. Clint Eastwood’s movie adaption of a novel about a Civil War era farmer wanting revenge for the death of his family felt similar to Rambo yet had a different tone. It was a much more complex story and one I felt akin to given I spent my teen years wondering the woods around my parent’s farm learning how to hunt, fish, and be a Southern Illinois boy.
Growing older, I realized the world is not as simple as good conquering evil, yet there’s something appealing about stories that take the reader on a journey. Both Rambo and Wales are men searching for something. Rambo wants to find his friend, and Wales wants to find sanity in a world shot to Hell. Both men also find themselves living in the aftermath of war and changes it hath wrought. Rambo finds himself facing down a police force not sympathetic to the struggles of an anguished veteran, and Wales finds himself behind the newly invented Gatling gun.
When I think back on these two movies, the one thing I notice is both contain a driving beat. Had Rambo and Wales bounced all over the place, I doubt anyone remained focused, and though some might find the romance in The Outlaw Josey Wales reducing the story’s momentum of a sweet revenge ending, it is nonetheless important in building the iconic character known for one of the best movie lines in film history, “Dyin’ ain’t much of a living, boy.”
At this point in the review you might be curious why I’m rambling on about two movies when I should write about a book. Well, my answer is simple. I needed to in order to introduce the book.
It did not take me long to realize Anthony Acosta’s story about a group of terrorists blasting off into space to undermine democracy had many of the elements making action movies and westerns seat clinchers. First, there’s the desert landscape and bad men bent on a mission. Second, there’s the bold villain convinced they’re always right, and third there’s the desperation of the good society people who need the help of the shadowy outlaw element.
What made me root for Josey Wales as a kid had me smiling when I read Sicarionauts. I found a redeeming quality in the most unlikely characters and sensed a message about loyalty and friendship. The plot is strong, centered on a goal, and each chapter connects together as though climbing a ladder to a climatic resolution. And what a climax it is. The story has one of the most unique and remembered endings I’ve ever read. When I reached the last chapter, I found myself re-reading the final scene several times because it left me bewildered. In sum, I did not expect it, and that’s good because I felt amazement and also accomplishment, two things that made me a huge fan of Rambo.
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