As a diabolical false-flag scheme fractures the uneasy Ukrainian peace, Brown (Starfire, 2014, etc.) out-Clancys Tom in his latest action thriller.
In the near future, new U.S. President Stacy Anne Barbeau plays softball when 'roid-raging Russian President Gennadiy Gryzlov goes super-Putin. Former Russian leader Igor Truznyev secretly directs partisan attacks in occupied Ukraine and points to the Poles as culprits. Barbeau prefers politics to statesmanship—"Have your people focus-grouped it?"—and she leaves Polish President Piotr Wilk at Russia’s mercy. Into the breach steps one-time U.S. President Kevin Martindale and his private military contracting company, Scion, providing "special infantry with remarkably powerful weapons and a mix of advanced unmanned aircraft." Thereafter explodes a firestorm of acronym-powered actions—JASSMs, MALDs, AGM-154A, AIM-120C—all as "a means to offset Russia’s superior numbers and more advanced weapons." Brown’s love for obsolete aircraft asserts itself as F-111 fighter-bombers are reconfigured as drones. The big dogs in the fight are Cybernetic Infantry Devices—Iron Wolves—12-foot-tall "remarkable force multiplier[s]," two of which alone wipe out a Russian air base. The plot’s plausible, but there's irony to be found in the paragraphs about the perils of mercenary forces that are followed by praise for troops who are essentially mercenaries, "these brave American allies." The action’s relentless, but characters, neither complex nor deep, are role-players excepting someone new, a cyborg: Patrick McLanahan, a rebellious U.S. general thought to have been killed but now doomed to live within a CID set to monitor "his brain and body and [supply] the oxygen, water, and nutrients needed to sustain his life."
While linked to Brown’s previous novel, this fast-paced read has enough explanation to allay confusion as high-tension, all-out action-adventure flames across Eastern Europe.