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China Sea [Hardcover]

David Poyer
3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Feb. 22 2000 Dan Lenson Novels (Book 6)
David Poyer's cycle of modern Navy tales ranks among the finest nautical fiction of our time. With China Sea, his self-doubting protagonist Daniel V. Lenson faces for the first time the unforgiving challenge of command at sea.

Ordered to relieve an alcoholic skipper, Dan finds he has inherited a damaged ship, an untrustworthy crew, and an ambiguous mission. He is to take the USS Oliver C. Gaddis, soon to become the PNS Tughril, on her final voyage to be donated to Pakistan. But in Kirachi, Dan gets new orders: take Gaddis still further east, and operate against modern pirates preying on commercial shipping in the remote, dangerous South China Sea.

Pursuing an elusive and shadowy foe into an exotic, isolated world of hazardous reefs and tropical islands, Dan gradually discerns a larger purpose behind his supposed objective. Who are these "pirates?" What expansionist cunning supports them? Abandoned by the Navy, threatened by a mutinous crew, a murderous shipmate, and an approaching typhoon, Gaddis struggles to survive without crossing the shadow-line herself.

Filled with suspense, battle, and unforgettable descriptions of the sea's beauty and violence, China Sea continues Dan Lenson's star-crossed career in what Booklist calls, "One of the outstanding bodies of nautical fiction during the last half-century."

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From Publishers Weekly

An American frigate clashes with a Chinese pirate warship in Poyer's latest nautical adventure, which begins innocuously enough when Dan Lenson takes command of the USS Gaddis, an embattled vessel that has just been donated to Pakistan. Lenson is supposed to captain the ship only to its final destination, where his onboard Pakistani counterpart is scheduled to take over, but a disastrous emergency rescue of an Egyptian vessel near the Suez Canal reveals the tension between the American and Pakistani crews and their unease with the terms of the donation. Saddled with a ragtag, mutinous crew, Lenson is further plagued by an unidentified serial killer on board, who continues to elude capture. The voyage takes yet another strange turn when the captain gets new orders to head for China, and finds his ship involved in an international mission to curb a Chinese pirate operation while the rest of the world watches the U.S. take on Saddam Hussein. As the operation progresses, Lenson realizes he is being steered toward a final confrontation with a Chinese warship, knowing full well that if he loses the battle, the existence of his mission will be disavowed by his superiors. Poyer displays a fine sense of pace and plot when the focus is on seagoing affairs, and the battle scenes are scintillating and satisfying. But several nagging problems surface: the author occasionally gets caught up in nautical jargon; the writing veers toward cliche when the narrative drifts from the ship's maneuvers; and several plot machinations involving a relatively insignificant incident strain credulity. Poyer is a master of the genre, but this title lacks the consistency of his best work. (Feb.)
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

In his latest book, Poyer (The Circle) has brought back Dan Lenson and given him first command. It is 1990-91, at the start of the Gulf War. The navy, ready to discard the U.S.S. Gaddis, has asked Lenson to ready the ship for a final voyage. Accompanied by a crew of misfits and brigrats, Lenson endures a journey filled with bungling allies, hurricanes, a cronic supply problem, and piracy. THe crew is ready to mutiny - the vagueness of his orders and a disgruntled executive officer have undermined Lenson's authority. And to top it all off, Lenson soon realizes that one of his crew is committing murders in every port. Poyer's characters are as good as ever, and the action scenes are lively, but the book's lulls - passages filled with characters repeating themselves and to command - make for painful reading at times. Still, this is recommended for larger fiction collections.
Patrick J. Wall, University City
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars CDR Lenson gets command...or does he.... April 22 2003
Format:Mass Market Paperback
In "China Sea" DC Poyer brings us back the luckless but never feckless hero, Dan Lenson, USN. A young but ambitious naval officer, Lenson seems star-crossed. He's had two ships sunk from underneath him ("The Circle" and "The Gulf") lost his wife to divorce after she was taken hostage by Palestinian terrorists ("The Med") and nearly had his career ruined while trying to help perfect the USN's anti-ship cruise missile program ("Tomahawk"). Now, Poyer gives Lenson the one things he's really wanted - his own command...almost. On the eve of "Desert Storm", Lenson is given provisional command of the "Gaddis", an obsolete and worn out Knox class destroyer about to be handed over to the Pakistani navy. Lenson's command is virtual - the Pakistani's are already on board, and they consider the ship their own. Between the ship's sorry condition and the inexperience of the Pakistani crew (most acute in their captain), Lenson musters every resource he can to get Gaddis seaworthy. Frequently running into interference from Captain Khashar, Lenson nurses the hope that he can use the inevitable war in Iraq as a springboard to combat duty - perhaps at the command of the Gaddis. On reaching Karachi, Lenson's wishes are miraculously and ironically fulfilled - with the US reclaiming Gaddis and sending Lenson into battle. On the downside, Lenson finds that his assignment will take him into the south Pacific, against a mysterious rogue navy of red Chinese-backed pirates. Further complicating his situation is his lack of US support: the Pakistanis paid for most of Gaddis's weaponry and removed all of its ammo when the American's reclaimed the ship. Gaddis carries neither torpedoes, missiles nor even an ASW helicopter. Read more ›
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5.0 out of 5 stars Best yet Aug. 7 2002
Format:Mass Market Paperback
Our emotionally buffeted series hero, Lt. Cmdr. Dan Lenson, USN, has excruciating dificulties here. It's like the author thought up the most impossible set of conditions at sea he could imagine, and then put poor Dan smack in the middle to swim or sink forevermore: a new captain with vague orders, an antiquated stripped ship, weak engines, contentious officers, fearful allies, a terrible typhoon, a demoralized and grossly understrength crew, and one of them probably a ghoulish serial murderer (a vicious twist on the sailor's "girl in every port"). Poyer neatly accomplishes this with a ship destined for an allied navy and sailed by a mixed and incompetent if-allah-wills-it transfer crew. Dan's been in tough places before in his career of five earlier novels, but this is perhaps the most current and future one, since it involves the Spratley Islands that are a potential flash point in Southeast Asia today. This is an astonishing novel of ship command in a vacuum of orders (like detached frigate captains back in the age of fighting sail, before radio). All depends on the character of the captain, and here is Lenson, an uptight, stubborn, moral officer in his first command. He must fight everything, the navy, its traditions, his crew, his reputation, and his own doubts. Poyer's occasional flights of nature description seem incongruous but are tinged with the hard menace that runs throughout this powerful story. The extraordinary tension in this masterful sea story will keep you on the edge of your seat.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Gripping but sometimes oddly over-written July 8 2001
Format:Mass Market Paperback
Dave Poyer does it again - a complex and devious yarn full of gripping incident and detail. Once again, the Chinese are the "bad guys" (does anyone else find it a bit alarming that all the thrillers are going down this path?) but the focus is really on the incredibly stressful situation of a modern-day "privateer", or maybe a "black project" set in a naval context. A bizarre side-plot involves an especially nasty serial killer.
My only quibble is that for the first half of the book, one is hit every so often with extraordinarily overblown similes and metaphors. Most unusual for Poyer. "The sun, red and swollen as a blood-filled condom..." Ouch! But they disappear as the story moves along. It's a great read, with a suitably cynical approach concerning those who pull the levers of power. After all, Dan Lenson's task would have been a lot easier if he had been told up front, privately "You will operate anonymously, not under the US flag - and if need be, we will deny that you exist" - but no, they made him figure that out for himself, at much greater risk to the mission.
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5.0 out of 5 stars David Poyer Deserves More! July 27 2000
I become rather annoyed when the professional reviewers emphasize the accuracy of David Poyer's Navy expertise and descriptions. As someone who knows next to nothing about the Navy or seamanship or whatever, Poyer has nevertheless caught my attention as a masterful writer, a challenging thinker, and an insightful explorer of leadership within the context of human nature.
Poyer has always been an artistically admirable writer. If you've already read China Sea, return to Prologue 3 on page 11. As horrible as what it describes is, Poyer's prose is gorgeous, reminiscent of what made me pay special attention to him in another of his novels, As the Wolf Loves Winter. Poyer proves even in this small passage that he can consistently hit the artistic mark that Thomas Harris set in Silence of the Lambs.
Poyer's series hero, Dan Lenson, has evolved from a relatively innocent follower to a seasoned, wise, yet renegade leader. He struggles always to be faithful to his own commanders, yet his sense of loyalty and commitment brings him face to face, again and again, with the vagaries of human frailty. He is the adherent to the black-and-white code of Navy tradition that forever proves inadequate to contain the ambitions and passions of human leaders. And yet even as Lenson suffers professionally, he prevails in his belief that there is absolute truth somewhere out there.
The only character I can think of in another modern novel series who has been as exquisitely treated as Poyer's Dan Lenson is in the Lawrence Block series, Matt Scudder. Lenson's experiences and the effect they have on the ongoing development of his character are razor-sharp in every novel.
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Most recent customer reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars China Sea proves unworthy
I must say that at first after reading the three major prologues I began to take a sudden intrest in the direction at which the plot was headed. Read more
Published on May 11 2003
3.0 out of 5 stars Pleasant reading if not quite believable...
This was a fun book to read on an airplane or on the beach. But it doesn't match up to earlier efforts. Read more
Published on Nov. 12 2002 by M. Ragen
5.0 out of 5 stars Information for the Navy wife
Being a navy wife, I enjoyed learning the jargon and getting an insiders look at what the jobs are like aboard a navy ship. Read more
Published on April 19 2002
5.0 out of 5 stars Well done and great find!
This is one of the best navy books I have ever read. Poyer fills out his book with great detail and knowledge of the Knox Class frigate that is outstanding. Read more
Published on Aug. 30 2001 by A Customer
4.0 out of 5 stars David Poyer's China Sea
I have read all the Dirk Pitt Clive Clussler action series. China Sea is the first David Poyer book in the series I have read. Read more
Published on July 6 2001 by Robert E. Green II
3.0 out of 5 stars good, but....
I like the Lenson series, mainly for its authentic descriptions of what it's like to serve as an officer on ship (as a civilian, I don't know if it's REALLY authentic, but it works... Read more
Published on June 27 2001
2.0 out of 5 stars Once again Lt. Cmdr. Lenson is surrounded by dregs
While Desert Storm is being prepared, Lt. Commander Lenson gets his shot at a command billet. A short one preparing the Frigate, USS GADDIS, for delivery to the Pakistan Navy. Read more
Published on May 13 2001 by ""
2.0 out of 5 stars Not a Clancy alternative
I am constantly on the hunt for a writer that will fill in the gap left behind when clancy decided to write jaw-dislodgingly boring books, and Poyer's not it. Read more
Published on May 2 2001 by Casper Paludan
4.0 out of 5 stars Good page turner
This is the first book I have read by David Poyer. I borrowed it from the library so I would have something to read on the plane from JFK to London -- and I thought the cover... Read more
Published on Jan. 16 2001 by DrewNJ
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