A masterful nosedive into the aerospace industry
Author Joseph Finder, best known for writing corporate thrillers like Company Man and Killer Instinct, unleashes another white-knuckle tale of suspense with Power Play. Finder writes some of the best books in the business -- stories filled with action, tension and breakneck pacing -- and his latest is another winner in the same mold.
This time Finder's focus is on the aviation industry, telling the story of Jake Landry, a low-level executive at Hammond Aerospace. When his boss is unexpectedly called away, Landry is invited to attend the company's "off-site" in his place. The trip is intended to be a team-building retreat for the company's top bosses, the kind of activity that earns management consultants the big money, but leaves employees rolling their eyes.
A weekend at a remote lodge in the Canadian wilderness, listening to motivational speeches, climbing ropes and performing "trust falls," is the last thing that the rough-hewn Landry wants to do. But the outing goes from boring to terrifying in an instant when a gang of woodsmen takes over the lodge and holds the executives hostage. Most of the businessmen are as helpless as you'd expect. Only Landry has the guts to stand up to the kidnappers and take decisive action.
Interwoven throughout the main plot is the story of Landry's early life, a tale of hardship and abuse that he suffered while incarcerated in a facility for youthful offenders. The details of the shocking crime Landry committed come out gradually, and go a long way towards explaining his actions as an adult.
Other than Landry, we don't get to know most of the characters in Power Play very well. His former girlfriend, who now works as an assistant to Hammond's CEO, takes her turn in the spotlight, as does the CEO herself. But most of the other executives, as well as the bad guys, are drawn only in broad strokes, with little to distinguish them as vibrant characters.
That's one of the trade-offs that is often necessary when crafting a thriller plot. If the author spends too much time focusing on details -- like fleshing out characters that ultimately are of little importance to the story -- then it's almost inevitable that the momentum of the book's pace will suffer.
Finder chooses instead to concentrate on the velocity of the narrative, and he succeeds with fine results. Power Play is a book that truly earns the distinction of "page-turner." If the plot is occasionally implausible, or the descriptions are a little thin, none of that is likely to matter to readers racing through the story at lightning speed.
That's not to say that Power Play is an insubstantial book. Finder is too sharp an observer of the contemporary business scene to write a book without some meat to it. He not only provides an interesting look at changes within the aerospace industry, he also explores corporate malfeasance, boardroom backstabbing and creative uses for offshore banking.
Finder is so good at capturing the zeitgeist of the corporate culture that the Harvard Business Review will feature a "Case Study" in its October issue that Finder wrote. This is the first time the Harvard Business Review has ever featured a "Case Study" written by a novelist. (They are usually written by CEOs and business school professors.)
By selecting a novelist as a contributor, that publication has demonstrated what high regard the business world has for Finder. The world of literature should similarly hold him in esteem after yet another triumphant work.
From the Chicago Sun-Times, August 26, 2007