Hostile Takeover by Shane Kuhn

Hostile Takeover - Shane Kuhn's boisterous follow-up to the wildly popular The Intern's Handbook - apes the first book, a first class replica in every sense. Replete with Hollywood action movie cliches and snarky tongue-in-cheek references, our favorite intern John Lago is back to doing what he's best at. Shooting his way through any situation - this time though, he's blazing his way out from a matrimony. And he just might have met his match in his wife, Alice. Back from the dead after that hyper-violent climactic fallout at the climax of the last book ( and their last encounter!), she's a female Lago in every sense - out-thinking and outfoxing our hero in every Machiavellian schemes he draws up.

So is Hostile Takeover any good?

The concepts are the same old - ripening like pungent French cheese and smelling just as bad. Play the intern to get up close and personal to the top dog and then smoke him/her. 

"Our specialty was our cover: the internship. HR, Inc. would place us in companies as interns . . . and we would use our wallflower anonymity to slither up the corporate ladder like ninja black mambas and smoke heavily guarded, high-value targets — mostly well-heeled Fortune 500 golf zombies."

At the start of the book, we find Lago cooling his heels in an FBI lock-up - recounting his marriage that went horribly wrong - when ego and ambition override the hot insatiable and kinky sex. When Alice and John celebrate their matrimonial vows by blasting through the floors of their HR inc. building to land fifteen feet below into the boardroom meeting and thus, kill the new top gun at their older establishment (Welcome to 'Hostile Takeover'), you know you're in for a wild Hollywood ride - zipping full steam with your brain stock thrown out the window.

But soon enough, their individual 'executive' styles being at loggerheads, Alice ousts Lago and shortly after, he is on the run - dodging not just Alice's deadly salvos but escaping into Mexico for anonymity. Armed with just his muscles ( now worked up to be as hard and unfeeling as hard blocks of wood with no nerve-endings of pain!) and his wit, the rest of the narrative is how John slowly climbs his way back into the thick of things. And in the process, kills a gazillion people with just his chopping fists.

Yes, the movie ( ah my bad! it's a novel, ain't it. grin!) runs along on no-brakes turbo-charged v-12 cylinders without taking any prisoners and each set-piece more outrageous than the last - the pacing is killer and the sheer amount of fun is unbeatable. There is no logic in here, so don't you go looking for a twisty Holmes-style plotting.

John Lago is again the shining centerpiece of this novel - zany wit and smoking aces with not just his guns, his character is the ultimate James Bond meets resilient Ethan Hunt dialed up to a hundred and bursting at the seam. His mind bending shenanigans would keep you turning the pages frantically - right from the tense opening pages to the climactic explosions.

Things that I got tired of : Lago's superhuman skills and his wisecracks. The action-movie cliches and Hollywood style gimmicks. and Alice as a character. The bitchy version of John Lago with her heart cut out and emotions freeze-dried inside her veins: Just couldn't get to like her! And yeah, the plot for this story is worse than paper-thin, perhaps why Shane peppers the narrative with action-kills from John's past, to keep things crunchy. Well, don't get me wrong, these above things are what made The Intern's Handbook such a great read. But relying again on this formula did get a bit tiring - the plot twists and shock reveals however kept the interest going.

But ultimately, the Mr and Mrs. Smith in thriller written format seemed to work for me. Frenetic in its pacing and weighing in at a slight 250-odd pages, Hostile Takeover is a breezy popcorn read: Showcasing John Lago's superman survival skills and Shane's energetic writing - laced with snarky trademark wit and blinding stunt-pieces that would look great on-screen - a worthy sequel to The Intern's Handbook. Just don't go looking for anything new here though.


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