Fans of Eric Red’s other work should enjoy this, and the slightly milder tone might accommodate more newcomers to his universe. Readers will feel the power of Stopping Power, but should Red’s creative foot find its way back on the gas, there would be no complaints here.
Road trip RV mass hits the gas and sets a course for kickass in Stopping Power, the newest book from Eric Red and Seidelman & Company. Career oriented divorcee mother Stephanie Power takes time off to spend with reluctant teenage daughter Libby, who is kidnapped at a gas station and used as leverage by femme fatale Ilsa. Having betrayed her own husband and hoping to divert the authorities from her own heinous heist, Ilsa instructs Stephanie to act as a decoy, unaware of Stephanie’s stunt racing background and motherly determination. Stephanie finds herself supported in unconventional ways by her current companion while also encountering obstacles from her ex husband every bit as daunting as the road. Can Stephanie keep up the speed and save her daughter?
Suspenseful driving along a Texas highway with police in pursuit, all to stop the haunting antagonist from harming a loved one or otherwise wreaking havoc… this must be an Eric Red story! Some pieces of The Hitcher and Blue Steel (among other stories) find their way onto Red’s octane truck of creativity in this book, so it’s only natural that it gets rammed into more modern set pieces. Stopping Power is a fast read, with all the breakneck pace of a chase or heist film, but without quite as many of the crazy occurrences in other Eric Red stories. Female protagonists are nothing new in his universe, but this time around, we have a female protagonist, antagonist and hostage character at once, with some clever role reversals for each. While the villainous villainess Ilsa is made out to be sinful seduction incarnate, she’s not quite the seemingly unkillable boogeyman type more prevalent in Red’s work. There’s a very human, sympathetic and occasionally even (very brief) maternal side to her character, perhaps in ways felt missing from Stephanie, according to Libby’s teen logic. Teen logic, meet psycho logic.
Some of the backstory of character relationships come via flashbacks which abruptly slow the pace, and once they’re fully explained, those used to the more bizarre nature of some of Red’s work will notice how it starts manifesting out of nowhere once again. Not that such aspects of the story are inherently a bad thing, but it’s like adding certain toppings to ice cream but realizing it’s ghost pepper extract instead of butterscotch – it’s a totally different experience if you’re not expecting it. By the time the reader’s senses start to return, big things explode and it’s all over.
With the exception of several gender role reversals, there aren’t a whole lot of new elements to be found in Stopping Power, from Red himself or otherwise, but they’re not always necessary. Reinventing the wheel is fine in this case, and should there be added spikes to the hubcaps, there’s no reason not to think those could be a woman’s touch. Fans of Eric Red’s other work should enjoy this, and the slightly milder tone might accommodate more newcomers to his universe. Readers will feel the power of Stopping Power, but should Red’s creative foot find its way back on the gas, there would be no complaints here.