When 24 originally ended four years ago, Jack Bauer was a fugitive on the run after killing multiple Russian diplomats, kidnapping a former US President, and stopping just short of assassinating Russian President Suvarov. 24: Deadline picks up roughly one hour later and gives us another thrilling day in the life of Jack Bauer.
Deadline is a smaller scale, more personal storyline. Both Kiefer Sutherland and the producers of the series often say they desire to go back to smaller storylines, but Deadline actually delivers on this promise.
The story in Deadline is exciting and well paced. It doesn’t get bogged down with any of the tiresome CTU drama – there’s no moles or office romances. There’s no presidential storyline, no nuclear bombs or World War III scenarios. Just Jack Bauer fighting to see his daughter again. It feels most similar to the first season of the show, which still remains my favorite of the series.
There’s a few more things it has in common with the first season: Jack eats and drinks, he gets stuck in traffic, he gets tired and dozes off. These small touches make Jack feel more human and relatable and it’s something that hasn’t really been done much since the first season.
The driving force for Jack Bauer is keeping the promise he made to his daughter Kim and granddaughter Teri in the eighth season premiere. Jack is determined to see his daughter one last time before fleeing the country. He’s already vanished on her once and doesn’t want to put her through that agony again.
It’s not going to be easy for Jack. The FBI has assembled a task force to bring him in dead or alive and a covert operations unit of Russia’s SVR has orders to kill Bauer on sight. His friends are either all dead or arrested, so he doesn’t have any backup. He can’t rely on Chloe providing him satellite assistance or sending schematics to his PDA; he’s forced to fend for himself and use his wits to stay alive. Jack starts off without a gun, vehicle, or any method of communication and is forced to improvise in clever ways.
It’s still very much an authentic 24 storyline. Frequently heard phrases like “within the hour” are used, there’s shootouts and car chases, Jack puts people in sleeper holds, he threatens to shoot others in the kneecap, and all of the other things you’d expect. There’s plenty of physical confrontations with brutal hand-to-hand combat. Many of these bone-crunching fight scenes would make even Jason Bourne green with envy.
More than one character from the past makes a surprise reappearance in 24: Deadline. These aren’t just small cameos either, these familiar faces play an integral role in the storyline. The first return was expertly handled and is the kind of moment where you fist pump the air and let out a loud cheer. The second return introduces some fun scenarios, but will require readers to suspend disbelief a bit more.
There’s plenty of references to past events including Jack’s time in Delta Force, Operation Nightfall, the Salazar sting operation, Palmer’s assassination, the nuke that went off in Valencia, and even something from 24: The Game. Over two dozen previous characters are mentioned in the book including Jack’s former lovers Teri, Audrey, and Renee; former CTU colleagues Nina, Chase, Tony, and Chloe; and villains Cheng, Saunders, Mandy, Victor Drazen, Fayed, and Marwan just to name a few. All of these mentions are very organic and do not simply feel like fan service.
You’ll find out more about Kim’s husband Stephen (including his last name and occupation), you’ll read about what happened to Russian President Yuri Suvorov, and catch up with an old character or two that we haven’t seen in a while. You’ll also discover which villain still haunts Jack Bauer to this day and gives him nightmares. Since this is a prequel to Live Another Day, we already know Jack survives, but other characters might not be so lucky…
Many tie-in stories are often shoddy cash grabs that fail to capture the essence of the original work. But author James Swallow appears to have a very good understanding of what makes 24 tick. He respects the source material and you can tell the story was crafted with lots of love.
Besides consulting with 24 showrunners Manny Coto and Evan Katz, Swallow gives a shout out to the fans of both 24 Wiki and 24 Spoilers in the acknowledgments. There’s an impressive attention to detail, from using the same fictional CNB news network occasionally seen on the show to mentioning somewhat obscure facts like Jack’s history of riding motorcycles in his youth.
When the series originally ended four years ago, we were promised Jack Bauer would make his long-awaited debut on the big screen but that never happened. 24: Deadline feels like the 24 movie we never got.
Deadline is the first of three “24” novels planned by Tor/Forge Books and it sets a high bar for the next two. James told us that he’d love to write more 24 stories if this book is successful, and I hope he gets the opportunity to do so. If the TV series gets renewed for another season, the producers would be smart to bring him on board as a writer or consultant.
James Swallow is a British author and scriptwriter. A BAFTA nominee and a New York Times bestseller, he is the author of several original books and tie-in novels, as well as short fiction, numerous audio dramas and video games.
His writing includes The Sundowners series of steampunk Western novels, and fiction from the worlds of Star Trek, Warhammer 40,000, Doctor Who, Stargate and 2000AD. He lives and works in London.