This fast-paced military thriller is set in Central America during Cold War-era late 1980s.
U.S. Marine Corps Lt. Peter Kane is sent to San Cristobal, a fictitious nation bordering Guatemala and El Salvador which is embroiled in a civil war. The San Cristobal government is fighting Communist insurgents–the Gerardo Rivas Popular Army, named after an early 1900s Communist leader from the country. The United States is advising the government as it fights these guerrillas, with Peter playing a central role. Once in the country, however, he quickly finds the conditions to be rough. The soldiers live in squalor, and the overall facilities and environment are less than desirable. Peter must fight his way back to safety after his helicopter is shot down, and later, he seeks revenge for the killing of a colleague. Levy writes with great detail, filling the book with adventure and presenting the protagonist as a Rambo-like hero along the way. Aside from the hero, the novel focuses on Tienente Col. Guzman Clemente, a guerrilla leader who begins to question the meaning of warfare, especially the killing of innocent children. Meanwhile, the Tiche Indians remain separate from the rest of society, and yet, they too are pulled into the war. After Peter saves a Tiche girl, he spends time in her village, experiencing a culture that few outsiders have ever seen. It is a transformative moment, one that sets up the dramatic climax to this fascinating book. The author acknowledges at the conclusion that he wrote El Volcan two decades ago, and it certainly reflects that era. But it remains timely, capturing the horrors of war and the involvement of American soldiers in harm’s way. It captivates the reader from beginning to end.
Intriguing characters, intense action and an exotic, exhilarating plot.