Friday, May 3, 2013

The Cobra Exploit / Bruce T. Prendergast

Reviewed by: BigAl

Genre: Thriller

Approximate word count: 45-50,000 words

Kindle  US: YES  UK: YES  Nook: NO  Smashwords: NO Paper: YES
Click on a YES above to go to appropriate page in Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or Smashwords store


Prendergast has decades of experience in the computer field and appears to have written or contributed to a few instructional manuals on related subjects. He has one other novel available, When Evil Governs.


“The Department of Defense builds a new malware-immune computer operating system, code-named Cobra. A no-holds-barred battle for it erupts between arch enemies, the Mossad and the KGB.”


Cyber terrorism, foreign governments hacking into government and private computer systems to steal and sometimes wreak havoc, is something that has received a fair amount of attention lately from politicians and others. It is a good subject to base a novel on. Not only could the right story make an entertaining read, it could also educate the populace on the basics of the problem. Unfortunately, this isn’t that novel.

It’s hard to know where to begin with the issues I had with this book and, although long, this review will only touch on some of them. The first big problem happened early:  the scene is a naval inquiry board, which goes on and on and on and on and … just imagine someone droning forever with a long speech on computer malware, cyber terrorism, and related subjects. I’m a long-time computer geek and my eyes were glazing over. In fiction writing, what happened here is called a data dump, and usually is done to quickly establish needed back story. There is almost always a better, albeit harder, way of communicating that back story, if it is really needed. Much of this probably wasn’t, at least not for the story.

Another issue was repetitiveness. Normally, when I have this complaint about a book it is due to word choice, using the same word too often in close proximity, like when I saw the word ‘change’ used four times in two sentences in this story. A twist on this was one character who keeps thinking that another character he is spying on is going to recognize him. I got it the first time. By the third time he had this same thought I was just getting irritated.

However, this problem went well beyond the normal issues in The Cobra Exploit. A representative example is one character who breaks into a cabin another character is living in. He needs to get in, see what is there, and get out without leaving any sign that he’s been there. While the first character is doing this, we’re treated to his internal dialogue considering all the steps he needs to take and the logic behind them. This goes into much more detail than a reader needs to convince us that he knows what he’s doing. That’s bad enough, but later the same character repeats the break in to plant a hidden camera in the cabin. Rather than saying the equivalent of “he repeated the same steps as last time,” we’re once again treated to the same internal thought process with all the detailed steps and logic. A good editor would find numerous opportunities for cutting and tightening prose in this book. I suspect by the time he or she cut the parts that were repetitive or did nothing to move the story forward that it would transform the book into a novella.

Another serious problem was verb tense. I think, although I’m far from certain, that the intent was to write this story largely in present tense. This can potentially give the story more immediacy to the reader, but it is hard to pull off. Here, verb tenses kept slipping back and forth from past to present with no rhyme or reason, sometimes mixing past and present tenses in the same sentence. This, along with a tendency to mix short scenes with no transitional clues to realize the story had switched points of view or place, made for choppy reading and a constantly disoriented reader.

While I think the issue of cyber terrorism is one that those who like to stay informed should learn more about and it would be a good subject to build a novel around, it seemed that the author had a goal of informing, and neglected to consider that the priority needed to be a well written story first. In the end, it failed on both counts.


Some relatively tame adult situations.

Format/Typo Issues:

A large number of proofing and copy editing issues. The most frequent problem is verb tense confusion, slipping back and forth between present and past tense, sometimes with both in the same sentence.

Rating: * One star


Walter Knight said...

One star? I am shocked and appalled.

BooksAndPals said...

I knew you would be Walter.

Unknown said...

Big Al,

I'm Bruce T. Prendergast, the author of The Cobra Exploit. You didn't ask if an updated version existed. Shame on you. Numerous changes and a new first chapter exist; I even threw one chapter out. I won't go through the litany of changes made before your review, but it might surprise you I did receive 1 5-star review. In my opinion, you've killed the book. I would have gladly sent you a P/B version if requested. My POV changes were only after direct dialog from an actor. I thought folks could correlate between the inner and external dialogs. In revisions, I reduced POV to only one actor per chapter, with the exception of one chapter.

The work contains no known tense problems, an absence of simple verbs, certainly no forms of the verb "to be", no use of the word "that" or any instances of the word "have" and its various derivatives. "That" is either a garbage word or a disconnected modifier, while "have" is the laziest word in our vernacular. I did global searches for all the simple verbs like "is", a form of the verb "to be". A serious effort was made in making the prose read smoothly.

In my opinion, you're too full of yourself. You didn't even read the work, but got hung up on your personal dislikes. Does the cliche, "Can't see the forest for the trees apply?"

I've unpublished the work. No amount of work can overcome your sour review, and I really mean sour since I don't believe you completely read the work. You apparently get hung up on things poisoning your outlook.

Is "tense" your big thing? I read another 1-star review where you complained about tense.

Unknown said...

Like Walter Knight, I'm shocked and appalled Big Al. You didn't ask if an updated version existed before starting the review. It did, but after such a poisonous review, I've unpublished the work. It stills shows up on Amazon, however pricing information isn't available. I'm sending Amazon an email asking that entries for the Kindle version be removed from the site. And no, I didn't run around and make changes after the review was published. I waited until my anger dropped to a manageable level. I would have gladly sent you a P/B version if requested. If P/B versions don't fit into your paradigm, then in my opinion you have a broken business model.

Yes, tense problems existed in the initial manuscript, however it was clean prose with no simple verbs, no forms of the verb "to be", no instances of "have" and its various derivatives. The word "that" doesn't appear in the prose; it's either a disconnected modifier, or a junk sentence.

Later revisions included POV changes. In the original manuscript actor dialog always preceded a POV change. I've since changed that to only one POV per chapter except for one chapter.

I didn't see any problems with narrative distance.

The revisions included adding a new first chapter, deleted a boring chapter, managing some redundant text, and added water-boarding to Sven's incarceration.

It might surprise you, but I did study creative writing in college.

Bruce T. Prendergast

Dr. Amour said...

Do you really expect a book reviewer to ask each and every author if they have a new, updated version of their book to re-submit before they start reading?

Why didn't you spend time on your story to clean up and edit it BEFORE you hit "publish" the first time?

You didn't. And now, all of a sudden, it is all BigAl's fault.

BooksAndPals said...


I'll start by referring you to this post:

You might also do well to read the book submissions policy again (I assume you did before submitting your book for review). The last section is pertinent to your complaints.

I had to laugh at your questioning of my "business plan." Read the tagline at the top of the page. My business plan, such as it is, has a much bigger flaw, namely a source of revenue to make the time and effort worthwhile. That's pretty basic for a business.

I'll leave you with a few simple questions. Was the book as submitted to me available for a Kindle owner to purchase at any point? If they purchased it then, just got around to reading it, and reviewed it today based on the book you sold them, would you react the same as you have here?