Review: Cloak by Timothy Zahn

It’s no secret that Timothy Zahn is one of my favorite authors. So when I got the chance to review his latest offering, Cloak, I jumped at the opportunity even though the plot didn’t check off my usual boxes of “outer space” or “Star Wars.” Overall, I found Cloak to be an enjoyable read and recommend it for fans of military and political thrillers.

Cloak has one of the most complex Zahn plots I’ve read: in one plotline, heads of various federal organizations are attempting to track down a stolen nuclear weapon from India. The other plotline involves theft of four working cloaks of invisibility, the murder of three scientists, and attempted murder/kidnapping of the lead scientist’s widow. At first the plotlines stay segregated, but eventually they start to intertwine, which was when the plot really grew compelling for me.

As I said before, it’s an enjoyable novel, but in the end I wasn’t as compelled as I’ve been with other Zahn offerings, such as The Icarus Hunt or Night Train to Rigel. The cast of this novel is so huge that it was hard to keep track of the various characters, and nobody really stood out for me. The smaller scale storyline involving Angie (the scientist’s widow) and her pseudo-protector, Ross, was the most interesting because it was so much more personal and small scale than the others. Like always, Zahn does a great job at creating intrigue and dropping bread crumbs throughout the novel, and makes you want to keep reading to learn more information.

I hate having to mention this, but my biggest problem with the novel was the lack of gender diversity. It’s very hard to judge racial diversity in a novel, but on that front I think Zahn did well. However, even with the huge cast (and I’m talking huge–at times it seemed like a new character was being introduced in every chapter), I can count the number of named female characters on one hand. Granted, two of these characters have a substantial role, but there is no reason that more of the myriad of cops or military officers or government officials or even the bad guys couldn’t have been female. I know Zahn can write complex female characters, and recent novels like Scoundrels have been fantastic on the diversity standpoint, so that might have been why it stood out so much for me.

Despite those issues, I did find myself turning pages quickly and am still in awe of Zahn’s ability to weave a complex plot. It’s one of those novels I’d like to read again just so I can see if I catch anything new the second time around. I give Cloak 3.5 out of 5 stars.

A copy of this novel was provided by Silence in the Library publishing for review purposes. 

One thought on “Review: Cloak by Timothy Zahn

  1. I fully agree with Nanci's review, tho I still want to add my own, expansive thoughts.

    Timothy Zahn is amongst my favorite authors. I have have read more than 25 of his novels. This one is up to his usual high standards. It has a very tight plot, secrets and twists every where, and lots of creativity.

    Although I enjoyed the read, the story was not interesting to me. It was just a standard spy vs spy, crime novel; only written by a brilliant tactical author, and involving an item capable of leveling a city. I prefer Zahn's sci-fi and futuristic materials to this modern day heist.

    Without giving anything away, a small nuclear bomb is stolen by an unknown group for an unknown purpose and with an unknown destination. The entirety of the novel is the numerous branches of the US government trying to find the nuke, always a step or two behind the thieves. Zahn's trademark creativity is in the form of the introduction/use of cloaks capable of making people or objects appear invisible in most of the light spectrum.

    I never considered the thieves to be bad or evil because there is no development of any character (neither g-man nor thief) and because you do not know the motive for the theft until the end. I found myself neither rooting for, nor against either side of this spy vs spy match.

    I am pleased that Zahn kept politics out of the story. You are not reading the thoughts of bleeding-heart liberals, blow-up the world extremist, crazy middle easterners, religious zealots, anti-war doves, American hating foreigners, ultra-patriots, nor staunch single-minded military men. Everyone in the book is there solely to do a job, and not to pontificate about morals or politics. Oh, there are A LOT of 'everyone' in this novel. 'There are way too many characters to keep straight, especially because none of them have any personality. When I was finished, I still did not recognize the roles of each of the main characters. Missing from the hodgepodge of characters was one hero or superman or prime enemy.

    In sum, if you are a fan of Zahn, and/or like spy or crime novels, and/or want to experience a very creative and near-flawless plot, then I recommend this novel.

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