An epic tale of America at war with Mexico. 2 cassettes.
Set in the early 1990s (most works of fiction often reflect the times in which they are created) a short time after the abortive Moscow putsch, Trial by Fire begins with a deadly and successful coup d'etat in Mexico as the military, fed up with the ruling Partido Revolucionario Institucional (PRI) party's corrupt and inept ways, does away with the President and most of the PRI leadership. Motivated -- mostly -- by patriotism, genuine concern for Mexico's countless millions of poor inhabitants, and a desire to kick the country into the approaching 21st Century, the new Council of 13 moves quickly to sweep aside political opposition and the powerful criminal organizations that practically run some of the country's states.
But when Col. Alfredo Guajardo, one of the members of the new military junta, sets his sights on Hector Alaman, aka "El Dueno" (The Manager), a notorious drug baron whose empire has spread across the entire Caribbean, the New Revolution that he has helped to successfully bring about will be jeopardized by the aftershocks of a daring military raid on Alaman's fortified villa/compound at Chinampas. While the Mexican army's heliborne assault is a nominal success and the huge estate is captured, Alaman himself escapes along with a handful of experienced, ruthless and highly paid mercenaries.
Alaman's escape from the raid at Chinampas will soon prove to be more than an embarrasing incident that can be dismissed by the new rulers of Mexico. Alaman's thirst for revenge has no limits, and together with his little but efficient army of foreign mercenaries, including an American named Childress and Lefleur, a particularly creative Frenchman who will carry out any act of violence as long as his pockets are lined with dollars, the drug lord strikes back. Knowing full well that they alone can't topple the Army and the Council of 13, Alaman and his goons create a series of border incidents to create a Second Mexican-American War.
Coyle, who is one of the best writers of the military fiction genre, once again places Lt. Col. Scott Dixon, veteran of two previous conflicts (chronicled in Sword Point and Bright Star) and Medal of Honor recipient, at the tip of the spear of America's response to the apparent new enemy south of the border. Serving with Dixon once again is Capt. Harold (Hal) Cerro, former airborne officer and veteran of the Iran and Libyan campaigns, and now assigned to the 16th Armored Division, where he will be serving for the first time as a staff officer rather than commanding a company in the field.
Coyle also brings back such memorable characters as Jan Fields, the brash, beautiful, intelligent and dogged reporter who is Col. Dixon's current lover, and whose reporter's instincts and desire to get the story land her in jeopardy and Congressman Ed Lewis, a forner National Guard officer who wants to know the truth about why American troops are being sent into combat in Mexico.
Trial by Fire also introduces a vibrant new character in 2nd Lt. Nancy Kozak, one of the first female officers to be assigned to the Infantry branch as a platoon commander. Coyle does a terrific job in describing Kozak's determination to be "all that she can be" in a profession that was once considered a males-only "brotherhood of war." His portrait of her drive to be a good infantry officer while still being female is a fine example of storytelling at its best, and his knowledge of the military, its equipment, and more importantly, its people and culture, allows Coyle to show the men and women in uniform as believable human beings with real emotions. His novels are somehow smaller in scope than his mentor Tom Clancy's huge technothrillers, but Coyle's depictions of his cast of characters are more appealing.
All things considered, Trial by Fire was an enjoyable book. I have read a number of Coyle's novels, some of which featured Lt. Nancy Kozak. In Trial by Fire, I had the opportunity to go back to the introduction of Lt. Kozak. The story was not as tight or compelling as some of Coyle's other works, but it was a solid work nonetheless. The plot started quickly with the overthrow of the Mexican government and increased tension between Mexico and the US. The rising anxieties, escalating conflict and troubled negotiations were certainly plausible. For Coyle fans, this novel is worth the time. I am glad that I went back to pick this up.
Part of the story is told from the point of view of a woman who's about to become a commander of her own platon unit. Her experiences and adventures in the book alone make for a very interesting story in itself. Some scenes I enjoyed: one officer can't help but stare at her breast, another one where she needs napkins, and what a well-rested soldier looks like. Kozak's story into the military is a somewhat ideal presentation of the author, and so don't expect a highly realistic exploration of integration of women into the American military. But if the author were more serious, we should see other infantrywomen besides Kozak.
The battle scenes are not as descriptive this time. The first day of war but when you start reading that part, you're already in the middle where US troops suffer huge casualties. The Mexicans are shown as highly motivated and seemingly well-trained for this war. And there's something corny when the troops talk to the main Mexican character, Col. Guajardo. And Mexico seems to be described as a utterly poor country than it actually is. Hey, my Diamond Supra modems are made in Mexico.
It's not directly mentioned, but the story does take place in 1995. The president's name was never mentioned in the book but if it was Bill Clinton, he would have to have done something right if he's re-elected 1996 because the president here handles the crisis poorly. :)
I have the book with a cover w/ a painting of a Bradley IFV with the US and Mexican flag in the background. This is a better looking cover than the bland red cover you see in this webpage.
The biggest problem I have with this book is two faulty assumptions Coyle makes. Read more