The Sentinels: Fortunes of War is the first book from Gordon Zuckerman. It is about six economics doctoral students who decide that the evils created by the Nazis must stop. Their way to combat this is to steal millions of dollars worth of gold from them. It’s a book with many fine qualities, such as a wonderful cover design created by Greenleaf Book Group LLC, but it is not a good book by any stretch of the word.
Mr. Zuckerman had a great premise for a story: steal Nazi gold to halt their war effort. It’s noble; it sounds fun; its setting is one of the most interesting of the modern age. And yet at every turn the book fails on that premise. Its nobility is destroyed by the sheer wealth the group already has. They’re the sons and daughters of the wealthiest people around. Their wealth and power of influence is such that they can get access to hidden dock fortresses, get a large detail of the President’s Secret Service to guard them for two years, and use the US military as their own personal taxi system around the world.
What could they possibly want with that gold? They want to make wine and use that to supply them with the capital to steal from other nations and corporations that they deem unrighteous. The question of that morality is never brought up nor is their Power Cycle idea (the way they determine if people are using their wealth inappropriately) ever explored or questioned. The book’s enjoyment factor is extremely limited since it takes 1/3 of the book before the plot appears and when it arrives we mourn its existence because it’s painfully dull.
In one of the book’s most unintentionally hilarious moments Jacques Roth (our lead protagonist, international playboy, master athlete, and brilliant mind who’s never seen women as real people) meets Natalie, a beautiful expert actress in London.
Natalie looked into Jacques’ eyes and said, “In case you were wondering, I recognized you from your football — excuse me, soccer — playing days. As a young girl, I accompanied my brothers to most of England’s matches. Whenever they played the French, I waited for the sight of the tall, handsome captain. Of course, I always hoped the best for England,” she laughed. “But you were my prince. Then, eight years ago, you suddenly disappeared — no more newspaper articles, no more soccer games. I lost track of you. So tell me, prince, where have you been?”
This paragraph is particularly bad, but its problems reappear throughout the novel. Each character speaks in this exposition heavy manner with no character voice of their own. The brain recoils at the fact that a Englishwoman and Frenchman would call football soccer, especially since one of them played the game years back. Of course, that point needs addressing since Jacques would have to have played the game in his teens and, even if he was a soccer prodigy, how did he make captain of a professional team? And, while we’re at it, is Mr. Zuckerman insinuating that all of England and all of France only have one team apiece? Of course, Natalie’s stalker tendencies do not freak Jacques out, and they sleep together about an hour later because they’re in love. That is until Jacques eyes an old friend and then his inner monologues lament, "How could I, a playboy of wealth who’s never seen women as real people, be in love with two women!" This ill-conceived character trait continues through the rest of the novel until you wish either girl would grow a spine (and a brain attached to it) and bash the whining idiot’s head with the nearest blunt object.