UNSEEN FORCES is the debut novel by Ed Kovacs, an experienced screenwriter (he wrote the first movie to ever deal with the subject of Remote Viewing), an aspiring psychic, an inspiring global traveller, and a keen collector of esoteric talismans, artifacts, and vintage World War II military aircraft seats. He lives in California, USA, where he is most probably sitting in a swanky pilot’s seat from a P-61 Black Widow (circa 1946) smoking his pipe and thinking about where in the world he can travel to next that he already hasn’t visited. UNSEEN FORCES is tailor-made for readers of the Daily Grail, and it’s a novel I highly recommend. An interview with Ed Kovacs will follow shortly.
“Nobody said a treasure hunt was easy.” – Maverick archaeologist Sky Wilder.
Sky Wilder is an archaeologist walking the edges of academia, mocked by his peers for pursuing the alternative. When he breaks a code that could locate Ancient Egyptian stone tablets holding the key to immortality, more than just his academic reputation is at stake. Secret forces in the world, who have been manipulating global governments and finances for millennia, will stop at nothing to possess the key to eternal life … and Sky Wilder is in their way.
This is the basis for Ed Kovacs’ explosive debut novel Unseen Forces. Conspiracy buffs and alternative armchair archaeologists will rejoice at the sheer number of fringe topics Kovacs has managed to weave into a plot that is as exciting as it is believable. Secret societies, corrupt billionaires, military psychic programs, Ancient Egyptian magick, Burmese refugees, Navajo sarcasm … this book has it all.
A young Clint Eastwood could easily be cast as Sky Wilder, the rogue archaeologist who can use a combat shotgun as well as he can decipher Ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs. His childhood friend and fellow academic is Frank Bacavi, a Navajo Native American. Frank is an interesting character, and his dialogues with Wilder are some of the best parts of the book. He balances Wilder’s impulsive and radical thinking with calm rationalism, and Kovacs doesn’t resort to “whitewashing” Frank either – he’s an intelligently and sensitively written character that will become a favourite for many readers.
Assigned to help Sky Wilder – or so it seems – is Diana Hunt, one of the American military’s best psychic warriors, and a stunningly gorgeous woman as well. Remote Viewing is a very real concept, and it’s no secret America raced Russia to develop a psychic spy program capable of winning wars. Kovacs himself is an aspiring psychic, and he uses his experiences and knowledge to good effect. Diana Hunt’s Remote Viewing methods are authentic, drawing on Zen meditation and Korean archery. She could easily have become the Bond girl of the story, but Kovacs constructs her personal story with depth and feeling, and she quickly becomes a character that is vital to the book.
When the going gets tough, Kovacs gets going. After establishing character and plot, the reader is hit with action that is relentless in its ferocity and realism. Kovacs’ screenwriting experience ensures the action scenes are well choreographed, and he doesn’t give the violence a politically correct treatment either. No punches are pulled, and real bullets, not Hollywood blanks, are fired in rapid succession so skilfully you will be left breathless once the dust is settled.
Unseen Forces has the sex to match the violence. Most people think archaeologists sit in museum basements pining for their mummies. Not Sky Wilder. He’s obviously studied the Kama Sutra more carefully than the Egyptian Book of the Dead, and it’s useful knowledge considering how stunningly beautiful the women he meets are. Kovacs quotes past Interpol statistics to justify the novel’s many voluptuous femme fatales: 60% of international spies are women. Seduction by the fairer sex can be deadlier than a well-aimed gun.
The novel isn’t perfect. There are a few niggles, but they’re minor ones. At times the book can read a little too much like a screenplay. However, this is also one of the book’s strengths; Kovacs’ screenwriting background allows him to create a clear and solid structure to construct the story upon. The writing is very cinematic and visual – scenes will play like a movie in the theatre of most readers’ minds – and there is no doubt Unseen Forces will make a terrific film.
The character of Arabella Ronhaar, and Sky Wilder’s meeting with her in Amsterdam, is only briefly mentioned to fill in the blanks. This is a shame, because Arabella could have been a very interesting part of the story. The ending also seems a little rushed, as though there were scenes in an original draft that were cut from the final manuscript. However, the few parts where Unseen Forces does stumble quickly recover through Kovacs’ skilful ability to simply tell a terrific story that keeps you turning the pages until the end.
One personal niggle is Sky Wilder’s seemingly unlimited resources. The manner in which he gains access to an elite fundraising function in the shadows of Egypt’s Gizeh Pyramids is a little too convenient, as are his friends-in-high-places in Thailand. The novel’s villain is Simon Forte, a multi-billionaire who has everything (but wants more), so perhaps there could have been more of a contrast. In an ode to the underdog, some of the best scenes in Unseen Forces involve Wilder with nothing but the sweat-soaked shirt on his back, fighting Forte’s elite assassins and vast amounts of money and narrowly escaping by the skin of his teeth.
Unseen Forces is a novel of many styles, due in part to the many areas of interest Kovacs gains his inspiration. Perhaps the most important part of the book involves Wilder and Hunt’s foray into the borderlands of Thailand and Burma – the infamous Golden Triangle of military corruption, drug trafficking, and human rights abuses. Kovacs draws on his own personal travel experiences in the Golden Triangle to create a thought-provoking and deeply moving part of the story that can seem a little bit at odds with the novel’s James Bond-like ending. The plight of the Burmese people is a real one, and this is where Sky Wilder draws upon his inner resources – courage, conscience, and sheer guts and determination – to fight the greed and corruption of Simon Forte and the Burmese Junta.
This is also where the characters of Diana Hunt and Sky Wilder are defined. It lifts the ante, both for the plot, the characters and for Kovacs himself as a writer, and he succeeds impressively.
Unseen Forces is a terrific debut novel that literally has something for everyone, and it deserves to be on the bestseller lists. It’s unique enough to stand out from the supermarket crowd, but not too out-there that it alienates its readers. Perhaps the best way to describe the novel is through its characters. It’s a little bit of Sky Wilder, a piece of Frank Bacavi, a glimpse of Diana Hunt – and a whole lot of Ed Kovacs’ heart, mind, and impressive writing ability and talent. Read Unseen Forces, and be there for the beginning of an incredible adventure …