RANDOM SH*T FLYING THROUGH THE AIR by Jackson Ford
Orbit Books, p/b, £8.99
Reviewed by Matthew Johns
This is the 2nd in book in Ford’s Frost Files, the exciting exploits of Teagan Frost – LA-based psychokinetic government operative working for the clandestine team known as “China Shop”. While this book doesn’t explicitly explore Teagan’s origins, the narrative reveals that her powers were somehow given to her by experiments that her parents conducted. As far as she’s aware, she’s one of the only people in the world with powers and puts them to use for the government in return for not being dissected and experimented upon by government scientists.
While one of the quotes on the book cover compares this to “Alias meets X-Men”, Teagan doesn’t quite have her sh*t together as much as either Sydney Bristow or Jean Grey. She’s been unlucky in love and secretly longs to train as a chef, as opposed to carrying out clandestine operations. The China Shop team are more akin to the Suicide Squad than the X-Men. Headed up by Paul, a former Navy quartermaster, with his lover Annie – an ex-gangster, Reggie, an incomplete paraplegic – the techie and brains of the outfit, and Teagan, ably assisted by their 7-foot tall formerly homeless but eternally cheerful Senegalese driver who insists everyone call him “Africa”.
A sudden, massive earthquake rocks part of LA, wiping out San Bernardino and sending the rest of the city into panic mode, anticipating after-shocks. Reggie discovers that it was caused by a young boy that seems to have similar powers to Teagan. With the threat of cataclysmic earthquakes hanging over their heads should he manage to trigger the Cascadia fault line (which is even bigger than the San Andreas fault, and could potentially wipe out half of the US as well as sending an enormous tsunami hurtling towards Japan), the China Shop team is dispatched to find him.
Ford has created a thrilling read – taking the reader on a rollercoaster ride through earthquakes, almost post-apocalyptic LA and more. His prose features conflicted and wholly human-seeming characters despite some of them having special powers. It explores themes of loss, separation, not fitting in, prejudice, fear, love and even parenthood. It’s a compulsive read that stands alone well – he weaves the tale with skill so that you don’t have to have read the first instalment to be able to follow the story, but it does leave you wanting to read it afterwards. He builds credible characters that he puts through almost every imaginable emotion in the course of his tale and brings the reader on the journey with his characters leading to an inevitable cliff-hanger nicely lining up the third book in this series.