C.J. Box’s OFF THE GRID Reviewed

Off The Grid
Book 16 in the Joe Pickett Series

C.J. Box
G.P. Putnam
March 8th, 2016

Off The Grid by C. J. Box brings back Nate Romanowski, the beloved rugged individualist. This book delves into a number of themes, some of which Box has become known for: getting the Federal government to acquiesce to the States, a contemporary Western, a solid description of the western landscape, and the issues facing western states. But, beyond that he explores the possibility of how terrorists can use technology to harm Americans, the vulnerability of the US communication systems, and the overzealous government surveillance. It might seem that a lot of issues are covered in the novel, but Box has a knack for brilliantly intertwining everything.

The plot begins with Nate and his girlfriend, Liv, living in obscurity on a remote Wyoming ranch, enjoying hunting and his falcons. Some rogue Federal organization finds Nate, because Liv decides to telephone her ill mother. A deal is made to destroy Nate’s criminal record for his help in locating a terror cell in Wyoming’s Red Desert. Nate’s master falconer skills are needed to give him an “in” with the Muslim, Ibby, who is also a master falconer. Meanwhile, game warden Joe Pickett is asked by the Wyoming Governor to stop the tracking of a grizzly bear and instead track down his friend Nate. Coincidentally the bear, Nate, and Joe converge at the Red Desert. Also there is Joe’s daughter Sheridan who has decided to go on a weekend camping trip. All unite in an attempt to thwart the terrorists before they can destroy the US electrical infrastructure.

The title, Off The Grid, is very apropos since it represents two plot lines. Literally, the terrorists are attempting to destroy the electrical grid that would incapacitate the US, and figuratively as Nate attempts to become a hermit, to be left alone in peace. He has been living “off the grid,” having no electronics, credit records, bank records, or tax records. Nate is content to live deep in the wild, flying his falcons and avoiding contact.

Anyone wishing for the return of Sheriff Matt Dillon will enjoy this storyline. The gunfights with the terrorists are taken right out of any Western battle. Even the weapon used is an “Apache” Helicopter. One scene in the book has Nate shooting out the trucks, which represent horses being shot out from the villains. Readers can vividly picture the gun battle as the shoot out occurs behind covered rocks. Even Joe’s “cowboy” hat is affected by this gunfight, being ridden with bullets.

As with all his novels Box is informative about western culture. In this case he gives insight into the western setting, grizzly bears, and falcons. His vivid descriptions of the harsh and remote, but beautiful environment, allow the reader to feel as if they are there.

Off The Grid is a warning of sorts in that it shows how US national security is vulnerable to a terrorist attack. It is not only informative, but challenges peoples’ minds as they learn about western culture. To date this might just be one of Box’s best.

Elise Cooper