I want to thank Terence for putting his soul in my soul's stead, so to speak, by finding and reading this book for me, so I don't have to. His analysis
is so accurate and detailed (though I did bite the bullet and read it myself last night) that I won't even try to go into any depth about it, other than to say I completely agree that this isn't worth reading, and that the story isn't really worthy of the grandeur of the setting, and could easily have been set in any other fictional world like Dumas' France or indeed Le Carre's England.
But, for me there's a but, because I read the guy's article about why he wrote it first, and came to like him from that, I read it not as I read a book by a new author but something like the way I'd read fanfic written by a friend, with much, much lower expectations, in other words, and on that level I found it clever and funny. I interpreted the over-the-top metaphors as deliberate parodies of pot-boiler writing style, and cracked up about them. The juxtaposition of spy thriller style with Tolkien characters I found fairly entertaining for most of the book.
I did have a hard time keeping the characters straight mostly because their internal voices seemed identical to each other man, troll, or orc. The creepy attitude toward women is what I'm guessing bad potboilers display, since the main love interest is very clever and powerful, and not a dumb blonde type, so it doesn't seem to be coming from the author.
There was one theme with which I did resonate, and which made me feel that some book of this sort this wasn't out of place: namely Tolkien didn't like technology, or rather, he liked technology right up to what existed (I'm guessing) in rural England in the time of his youth: waterwheels, wheelbarrows, hand tools, umbrellas, and not at all anything that came later such as the internal combustion engine (for those of us without handy waterfalls). He was quite against, say, the use of bombers in WW2, and thought the very idea was horrific, like the winged mounts of the Nazgul or something, as he wrote to his son Christopher.
And that needs an answer, I think. All the baddies in Tolkien's books use engines, steam, higher technology, and the goodguys have magic, sweetly babbling brooks, and such for their weapons of defense. Our world here has definitely plumped for the higher-tech vision, and I wouldn't have it any other way. So I liked the fact that science, which is really such a glorious pursuit, so much higher than the magic which was its predecessor in power in our human minds, perhaps, I liked that it was cast as the good-guy in this manuscript.
As for the rest, well I spent one night at it and didn't count it wasted. I think this was way better than, say, David Brin whose dreck I tried to wade through a while back; a terrible writer! But I can't actually recommend it to anyone else. As an amusement between friends I thought it was funny and clever. I did want to know what happened. But compared with real books by real writers, not so much.