Wow. I started writing this review after my first chapter of Third Transmission, and I was so gobsmacked, all I ended up writing was ‘wow’.
Several chapters later and now at the end of this breathtaking ride by young Canberra author, Jack Heath, I can pretty much utter the same word, but thrice – wow, wow and wow.
I’m not the most likely person to be reading Third Transmission. Sitting in a café recently, eyes wide behind the front cover, gnawing through my bagel like a rat on steroids, it didn’t dawn on me that this middle aged blonde housewife might look a right sight – eyes burrowed deeply into the pages of this high-impact, young and blokey tome.
True, I may not be a teen, and I’m certainly not male. And ok – I’m also not a super-adventure action hero wannabe. But this didn’t stop me from thoroughly enjoying this lightning-paced and brilliantly written novel.
“…Third Transmission is so aesthetically-driven, reading it is like
watching an action blockbuster unfolding in your head…”
The third in the Agent Six of Hearts series (after The Lab and Remote Control), author Jack Heath has woven a thumping, pumping, tightly configured and deftly researched tale that takes his sixteen-year-old hero on a new series of missions; missions that link together like chain mail in an astonishing plot-weave that works so well, you could peel it off the pages and slap it on a movie screen.
Indeed, Third Transmission is so aesthetically-driven, reading it is like watching an action blockbuster unfolding in your head. Heath writes with clear, detailed and dexterous descriptives, however, the plotline isn’t sidetracked or bogged down in the process – the author has a knack for combining a fast pace plotline and lots of action with a narrative that is colourful and totally immersing.
After hunting down dangerous canisters containing a deadly weaponised form of the SARS virus, the challenges facing Agent Six just keep coming as ChaoSonic’s plot to wipe out the city unfolds around him. Not only that, an old and very dangerous nemesis is on the hunt for Six’s brain and the acrimony from his sister Nai continues to haunt him. Brother Kyntak and father figure King are on his side, but something strange is happening with the Queen of Spades, and what will come of Six’s growing closeness to gorgeous agent Ace of Diamonds?
When The Deck sends Agent Six of Hearts on his latest mission to recover a dangerous nuclear warhead, Six infiltrates a launch party thrown by mad ChaoSonic scientist Chemal Allich, but when Six learns exactly what Allich has managed to create and the impact it will have on mankind, he has no choice but to throw his world upside down and risk the lives of all agents working in The Deck.
From this short synopsis, it’s clear there’s enough packed into this clever novel to boggle the brain – and on top of all that, the action just doesn’t stop coming. Heath’s ensuing story will literally take your breath away with its vigorous pace and extraordinary and highly intelligent plot twists. A warning: stay focused. Even this worldly brain was tested and skewed in every direction in an attempt to keep pace with the momentum and plot weaving of Third Transmission.
As for Health himself, it would be really easy to make a big deal of the fact that this literary talent has not yet reached his twenty-fifth birthday. Despite his youngishness, the author writes with such intelligence and visual ferocity, one can actually hear the bullets slapping into metal, figuratively see the explosive action sequences mushrooming into life, intently feel the crushing devastation on his characters’ hearts.
Whilst dodging these figurative bullets and leaping from mentally-bound explosions during my reading of Third Transmission, one question kept occurring to me, over and over again. And the question was this: who on earth is Jack Heath? And how did he write such an impressive novel that truly and utterly belies his age… so much so, that his main character, Agent Six, already has his own fan club.
To find out, I thought I’d ask the author himself.
“I’ve been writing for as long as I can remember,” Heath tells Australian Women Online. “I always knew it was what I wanted to do.”
A late starter, Heath didn’t begin his first novel until the ripe old age of 13. He wrote it after becoming disillusioned by the dullness of the books he was being fed at school. Quite simply, he thought he could do better – and has certainly done just that, offering teens and adults alike a thoroughly engaging read.
“…Heath’s story will literally take your breath away with its vigorous pace
and extraordinary and highly intelligent plot twists…”
“I didn’t start out with the intention of writing for teens,” admits Heath. “I was just writing for myself. That turned out to be a good way of going about it, since most teenagers liked the same things as I did.”
Heath was just 17 when he sent his first manuscript to a publisher who sent it back with a list of suggestions. Excited, Heath took them all on, then sent the manuscript back again. They reread it and made more suggestions.
“This went on and on until they offered me a contract, and the book came out when I was 19,” says Heath. “I’ve been working hard ever since. I know how lucky I was, and now it feels like I have to retrospectively earn my big break.”
Heath has penned three books following the travels of Agent Six, but the author also penned another book – Money Run – which was his third novel, and is about a teenage thief called Ashley Arthur. This, too has garnered rave reviews.
“Each of my books is a blend of crime, action, horror and sci-fi. I have plans to expand into every genre except fantasy. That’s nothing personal against fantasy readers or writers – I just don’t get it,” says the author.
“None of my books have a lone idea that drives the story. I usually throw in everything I can think of as I’m writing it, so the theme only emerges retrospectively. I think Third Transmission is about how people are neither good nor evil, just responding to different stimuli, and yet we are all responsible for our actions. But I could be wrong. I’ll have to wait and see what my readers think.”
And what a large readership he has. As mentioned, Heath’s main man, Agent Six, even has his own fan club website. This is something a writer could only dream of and is something that will no doubt propel Heath to write subsequent Agent Six novels – a task that will be a consummate challenge considering the way Third Transmission ends. But this surely won’t trip up Heath, who is totally driven by his love of writing.
“I write because I love books. They’re more versatile than movies, TV shows, music, comics, computer games, and any other kind of entertainment I can think of,” says the author. “I think the world will be a better place with more of them.”
Although Heath’s books are aimed at teens, there is a sophistication and intelligence that firmly anchors his work as an equal in adult fiction; other than the fact that its main character is a teen, and with the glaring omission of sex and gratuitous violence, Third Transmission is something older readers would thoroughly enjoy. Hey – if this average urban mother can transgress into hot-headed escapades via Third Transmission, anyone can.
So I, for one, am delighted that Heath felt driven to write – something that is obviously a natural born talent. Not only that, the author seems to have tapped into a genre that straddles both young adult and adult fiction – a blend that is increasingly popular due to its ability to blend innocence with acumen, detail with simplicity.
“When I was growing up, teen books were saturated with angst – eating disorders, bullying, parental divorce and so on. Now [they] seem more escapist, and I’m proud to be a part of that,” he says. “Most kids get enough realism in reality, so they need books not so much to understand their situations as to put things in perspective. No matter how hard the lives of my readers might feel, Agent Six’s life is harder, so the comparison cheers them up.”
No doubt, Heath will continue to write for teens for some time, despite his predilection for intellectual thrillers that teeter on the brink of the adult novel market.
“When writing for adults, there’s this feeling that you won’t be taken seriously unless you include sex, drugs, racism or abuse. With books for teens, you’re free to do your own thing without having those expectations dumped on you. I also love the enthusiasm of the fan base – you don’t get that same intensity with adult readers.”
Well, Mr Heath, I strongly disagree. You have a fan in me – this average, middle-aged adult. And I have no doubt Agent Six will enthral readers of all ages who bother to stretch themselves into a different genre. Like the latest penchant for grown adults who are totally into picture books, I have no doubt that books like Third Transmission will cross the deep divide and enthral readers beyond teendom.
In the meantime, I am keen to see what Jack Heath will pen next. This young man seems to have it all – intelligence, youth, good looks and talent. A publisher’s dream, yes, but even more so, a book reader’s nirvana. I, for one, am queuing for the next Six adventure.
Hurry up, Jack.
Learn more about Jack Heath at his website – http://jackheath.com.au/
You can visit Agent Six’s fan site at http://agentsixofhearts-thefansite.blogspot.com.