The Civilian

Fiction - Adventure
149 Pages
Reviewed on 01/12/2015
Buy on Amazon

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    Book Review

Reviewed by Jack Magnus for Readers' Favorite

The Civilian is an adventure story written by Michael Bickel. Robert Caron is only 32 years old, and he's just received a death sentence. The cancer that killed his father and uncle is now killing him. Robert is in a daze as he goes through his ordinary motions. He goes back to his job in a call center and continues hawking magazine subscriptions until a perceptive and kind older woman's words cause him to stop and realize what was actually happening. He walks off the job and goes to a funeral home to arrange his burial. The next day, government agents come to his apartment with a request for him. They want him to assassinate a South American drug lord. Caron, it seems, is related to the drug lord's beloved wife, and he's their best chance at getting close enough to make the killing.

Michael Bickel's psychological thriller, The Civilian, is taut and suspenseful. Caron, a hypochondriac and germophobe, was barely alive until his death was staring him in the face. It seems to free him to become the action and adventure hero that he never dreamed of becoming; a man who acts decisively and forcefully. I was quickly wrapped up in Caron's dilemma and resulting transformation. Bickel's characters are sharply defined and striking, especially Agent Young, the sociopathic government assassin who takes Robert under his wing. This fast-paced and exciting thriller is filled with intense images of the drug lord's compound and the underworld Caron infiltrates armed with nothing more than a poison pill and the prescription medication that's keeping him alive. This tightly scripted and elegant tale resonates long after the last paragraph is read. The Civilian is most highly recommended.

Melinda Hills

Facing death changes your perspective regarding life; at least that is what Roberto Caron discovers after receiving the worst news possible from his doctor. In The Civilian by Michael Bickel, Roberto is offered the chance to use what remains of his life to do something good – perform a tremendous service for his country. He is sent on a clandestine mission to rid the world of the major cartel leader in South America, and discovers new qualities about himself as he proceeds. Usually a hesitant man, relatively indifferent to things and people around him, Roberto approaches this task with dedication and a newfound sense of strength and determination. The surprising way in which this assignment plays out causes a major shift in Roberto’s viewpoint and he develops a deeper understanding of life and his own character. The question is how will Roberto face the future?

The Civilian by Michael Bickel is an easy read that packs a surprising punch. The writing style is conversational and the action moves smoothly, leading you deeper into Roberto’s thoughts and most personal beliefs. Making Roberto think about facing the death sentence of a terminal cancer diagnosis leads to him discovering many surprising facts about himself and what he is actually capable of. The Civilian also provides an interesting look at the lengths the government may go to in order to achieve its goals. There are significant surprises that drive the course of Roberto’s actions and it is enlightening to see the person he becomes as he finds his way through this adventure. You can’t help but take a look at your own life and beliefs as Roberto discovers some amazing things about himself.

Faridah Nassozi

What if you knew you were dying? How would you choose to spend the little time you had left? Many would probably choose to spend their last days with family, or on a beautiful island, or travelling the world. But what if there was another choice; a chance to be of noble service to your country and humanity in general? At 32, Robert Caron had lived a very dull life. He had no family, no friends and generally no life outside the boring telesales job he had held for the past 9 years. Then the doctors told him he had stage four cancer and had only six months of life left. With no choice, he accepted his fate and started putting his affairs in order. Then the CIA came knocking, asking him to use what little was left of his life for a noble cause because for once his DNA put him in just the right position to be the man for the mission. But what Robert doesn't know is the true devious intentions of his recruiters.

The Civilian by Michael Bickel is an amazing spy thriller with an interesting look at what it really means to be living. Is life worth living anyway if there is no joy and purpose in the living? No matter the intentions of the forces that move your life, you never know the right push that will take you over the cliff and jump start your life; but be careful of the new and exciting path so that your soul is not lost in the process. The Civilian is a really interesting read with shocking twists and turns that I could never have seen coming. Just when I felt that I had finally figured out what the real game was, another twist would be flipped to show me just how wrong I was. It is a thrilling read filled with spy games, treachery, conspiracies, betrayal and the other makings of an amazing fiction thriller.

Paul Johnson

Robert Caron has been a telemarketer for nine years, not at the top of his group but not in the bottom either. He’s led a simple life, albeit alone after his parents’ early deaths. One day a routine trip to see the doctor changes everything when he hears those dreaded words, stage four cancer. Surprisingly he’s not completely devastated, he just can’t figure out what to do. After all, he’s only thirty-two years old. That decision is quickly made for him when agents of the government visit him.

He is briefed on the most dangerous drug cartel leader in Bolivia, Eduardo Ortega, and how he must somehow be stopped at all costs. He is then told that he is a cousin of Ortega’s wife since his and her grandfathers were brothers. Then they ask him to do the unthinkable. They don’t spell it out but he knows what they want him to do; kill Ortega. Within hours he is flown to Bolivia where he meets the local agent. Given the means to accomplish his mission, he reluctantly moves ahead. Suddenly he finds himself in a double cross and must run for his life. Will he survive long enough to get the retribution he so badly desires?

Author Michael Bickel has a simple but effective writing style that keeps the reader’s interest throughout. He has created very realistic characters with down-to-earth dialogue. He effectively shows the internal torment of his protagonist as he struggles with what he’s feeling and what he’s been tasked to do, then the changes he goes through when he finds the strength to do so. An enjoyable read with an interesting ending. Well done.

Savannah Edelen (Teen Reviewer)

The Civilian by Michael Bickel is an eye opening book. Robert Caron has just been told by a doctor that he has six months to live. Robert doesn’t exactly know how to take this. So he stays in a state of shock. Then he gets asked by the CIA to do an unusual task. They want him to kill the biggest drug dealer in Bolivia, a man named Ortega. They need Robert to do it because only he can get close to Ortega. Robert's cousin Maria is Ortega’s wife. At first, Robert doesn’t want to take the deal but then he figures that if he is going to die anyway, why not make his death meaningful? Will Robert be able to kill Ortega or will he be the one killed first?

I really liked The Civilian by Michael Bickel. It was a very interesting story that I would have never seen coming. It really portrayed how easily someone can change and how that change can come from one simple action such as killing someone. It also really portrays the corruption that can happen in government because of greed and money. The book was incredibly well written and I truly enjoyed reading it. It had a great and detailed plot line, with realistic emotions tied in. I especially loved how easy it was for me to feel Robert’s emotions through the reading. It was almost as if I was actually him; as if I was the one who had been told that I had six months left to live. Very spectacular.