The Flock by James Robert Smith is a fiction fantasy thriller set in a Florida. The title of the novel comes from a group of prehistoric giant carnivorous birds known as Phorusrhacids. The flock has survived in the Florida wilderness and is now fighting against being discovered by men.
Salutations, FL is a model town, ideal and beautiful, owned by the movie studio / conglomerate Berg Bros. The movie studio wants to grow the town, however its neighbors, Marine Colonel Winston Grisham and billionaire Vance Holocomb want to stop Berg Bros. for their own separate reasons.
Enter Ron Riggs, a Fish & Wildlife employee who is called to Salutations to find out why the residents’ cats and dogs go missing. Thinking a big snake is the abductor, Ron hires his ex-girlfriend Mary to help him out. However, soon they will find themselves in the middle of a power struggle between three titans who will stop at nothing to further their agenda. In the midst of the power struggle they discover The Flock, a group of intelligent, pre-historic birds who have hidden from humans for centuries.
The Flock is a fast paced thriller with wonderful pulp elements peppered in the novel. The characters are fun, even though they are stereotypical with each representing an umbrella group (militants, big business, conservationists), but their interaction is what takes this book to another level. I liked the way Mr. Smith played with his characters’ names. For example, the militant is named after a U.S. rightwing / patriotic author. These characters create the engaging drama in the novel, but the giant birds are the true stars.
Mr. Smith has created a somewhat believable story of how these terror birds (Titanis walleri) survived unseen and undiscovered in one of the most populous states in the union. The author has given these birds human characteristics which are interesting (although I didn’t understand how come the intelligent, non-flying birds with hand instead of wings never created tools).
This book was a fast read, fast paced and fun at that. The storytelling is brilliant and the descriptive prose is imaginative and detailed. Some of the chapters are written from the viewpoint of the birds, which I found to be very interesting and helped me understand their way of life.