Dale Brown, himself a former air force captain, knows that a good techno-thriller succeeds by its careful blending of the hard realism of modern warfare with the fantasy of sci-fi's best alternative reality stories. In Battle Born
, Brown takes pains to frame his reality with all the necessary details. He begins with an extensive, international cast list; three pages of contemporary excerpts from newspapers that address the instability of the Korean peninsula; and finally, an explosive battle simulation in the Nevada desert, rich with the techno-speak of modern warfare: "'Radar altimeter set AUTO, bug set to 830, radar altimeter override armed,' the copilot announced on the interphone. 'Both TFR channels set to one thousand hard ride. Wings full aft. Flight director set to NAV, pitch mode select switch to TERFLW, copilot.'"
As the novel unfolds, we learn of a people's revolt against the Communist leadership of North Korea. The South Koreans, already in possession of their first nuclear weapons after the failed kamikaze run of a North Korean pilot, take advantage of the weakness and destroy key tactical sites in the North, forcing a stunning surrender of the Communist leadership and the reunification of Korea. Now in possession of nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons, the once fractious Korean peninsula poses a serious threat to China, and the world seems poised for World War III. Enter USAF brigadier general Patrick McLanahan. As head of a new B-1B Lancer tactical strike unit based in Nevada, McLanahan and his men target and destroy enemy missiles. With their Top Gun dramatics, the Lancer unit seems the only safety between stability and global annihilation as Korea and China face off.
While all this seems a bit too fantastic and fast-paced at times, Brown's battle dialogue maintains a narrative intensity that keeps it all fun. He does seem to underestimate the impact (pun intended) of using nuclear weapons in warfare, though; the book is premised on a history that involves the Chinese having used them in strikes on Taiwan, and this new tale treats the subject with somewhat less gravity than might be imagined. That said, one can't help but return to those opening newspaper clips from time to time and wonder if the seeds of Brown's world are indeed contained in the ominous tea leaves of current events. --Patrick O'Kelley
From Publishers Weekly
Last spotted on a singlehanded crusade against international terrorism in The Tin Man, veteran hero Patrick McLanahan, now a one-star general, is back at the head of a U.S. Air Force team in this 12th military techno-thriller from the ever-popular Brown. The general's crewAa motley gang of rule-breaking hotheads from the Nevada Air National GuardAis unorthodox, but desperate times call for desperate measures. It's April 2000, and a starving North Korean pilot has just tried to take out Seoul with nuclear weapons. This leads to the Second Korean War, as American flyers help their South Korean allies conquer a seriously weakened enemy. But a new united Korea is soon threatening China, and only McLanahan's team, flying Megafortress bombers equipped with sophisticated antiballistic missiles, can prevent nuclear conflict. Sidestepping obstructive air force bureaucracy and quelling the feuds smoldering among his pilots, McLanahan takes on the role of a renegade elder statesman in his latest foray, leaving most of the flying to his Nevada team, headed by Rinc "Rodeo" Seaver and Rinc's clandestine lover and commanding officer, Rebecca Furness. Seaver, accused of causing the deaths of three officers in a training maneuver, has a lot to prove, and it is his story that drives the personal subplot. Brown's strongest suit, however, has always been his ability to generate tension through high-wire aeronautics and technological breakthroughs, and in this tale he flourishes an ace: top secret plasma-yield warheads, subatomic weapons that silently vaporize their targets. His dialogue is as stilted as ever, and the acronym count as high, but Brown's poetry lies in his exhaustive tribute to the machinery of war, and fans will thrill to it once again in this solid addition to the series. Agent, Robert Gottlieb at William Morris. Simultaneous BDD audio. (Nov.)
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.