This is my first Dale Brown novel. It didn't really grab me. I'm withholding judgment, since I'm beginning in what's something like the 17th book in a series, and it'll probably read differently to someone who's read them in order.
But I found it to be a pageturner that didn't keep me turning pages very well. It took me a couple of weeks to finish. The plot meandered, and it didn't build tension very well. I thought Dale Brown included too much aviation detail for the average reader, and didn't pace it right. I usually love well-done detail in popular fiction, whether it's naval, intelligence related, or what have you. But the detail needs to move the story along, be critical at points, and in general carry its weight.
Here, Brown gives us too much, particularly in early sequences involving protagonist Patrick McClanahan and his teenage son Brad, who is training to be a pilot. There are too many acronyms and too much jargon. I realize Brown is a pilot, and this is what he knows and loves. But I often felt he was using it just to fill pages.
He is weak on the back story. You aren't told the US has gone through a nuclear war and that its economy and government are collapsing until several chapters into the book. That's pretty important to scene-setting and should be made evident sooner.
McClanahan, on the outs with the Air Force after adventures in previous books, is living on a semi-closed air base in Nevada, his status there - Caretaker? Retired? Hanger-on? Minor poobah in the Civil Air Patrol? - a little murky. Longtime girlfriend Gia is absent battling alcoholism, but shows up later in the book.
Military alerts are heightened after a dirty bomb attack in Las Vegas. When other attacks occur McClanahan and other CAP members suspect a right-wing cult living nearby, but meanwhile the FBI suspects McClanahan. Lurking in the background is a big land-owning rancher.
he plot moves a little like a run-on sentence. Something happens, and then something else does, and then something else does, but there's not much building of tension or of drawing elements together. None of the characters particularly grabbed me. McClanahan isn't a particularly interesting hero. The FBI types are predictable heavies.
What I like about the book is the detail on the future wave of warfare - robots. The Combat Infantry Device is a 12-foot, prodigiously strong, nearly invulnerable manned robot. I was a little unclear what the Tin Man is. (Reading reviews I find it's featured in earlier installments, a heavily armored individual not quite as robotized as the CID.) Brown has several opportunities to show off their capabilities, which tend to stop any show they're part of.
I'll give Brown another chance, perhaps starting this series at the beginning. I'm mildly interested in teenage son Brad, as most thrillers don't feature 18 year old protagonists and a fair bit of the action is seen through his eyes. I'll also give Brown credit for subtlety in dealing with extreme-patriot types. But as I read some reviews, I see a lot of series readers have the same problems I do with his writing.