Thursday, June 05, 2008

Agency Zero

The Big Brain is Colin Garrett, a super-genius who was orphaned at age ten after his parents were killed in an automobile accident. After whizzing through school and university, he joined the Army, but eventually discovered his intelligence was wasted in an organization seemingly built around politics and incompetence.

Years later, his former C.O., Jefferson Judd, contacts Garrett and asks for his help solving a strange mystery. In Washington state, at a secret Army base, three scientists awakened one morning in a complete vegetative state. All three were working on a project known only as Aardvark, which Judd claims is an experiment using lasers technology to change barren soil into land ripe for growing crops. Garrett's assignment is to discover what happened to the scientists.

Structured as a mystery, rather than an espionage adventure, the Big Brain series' first book, THE AARDVARK AFFAIR, published by Zebra Books in 1975, showcases a couple of decent action setpieces, but may as well have been a standard private-eye adventure. Gary Brandner's writing is crisp and clear, dropping a couple of interesting twists and trivial facts into the story. Outside of Garrett's status as the world's smartest man, there are few wild or audacious touches, although it's stated that his eyes change color when deep in thought.

Brandner, by the way, is probably best known as the author of the 1977 novel THE HOWLING, which was adapted into a hit movie in 1981, directed by Joe Dante. Brandner wrote two sequel novels, as well as the first film sequel, the awful HOWLING II: YOUR SISTER IS A WEREWOLF, which I actually saw in 1986 when it played at the Co-Ed Theater in Champaign, Illinois. Outside of Christopher Lee being in it and the hilarious sight of Sybil Danning's topless scene being repeated over and over under the closing credits for no good reason whatsoever, I've blocked most memories of it.

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