A debut sci-fi technothriller in which U.S. troops find themselves the subjects of a bizarre government experiment.
In 1991, U.S. Air Force Maj. Frank Craymer’s F-16 crash-lands in remote Iraq—just another tragedy in the first Gulf War. When Iraqi forces reach the crash site and find the dead pilot, they also discover an uncovered, underground chamber containing a centuries-old Latin manuscript and a group of eerily preserved human bodies. The manuscript, a diary, tells the story of a group of superstrong men and women living through the centuries, experiencing firsthand the 1066 Battle of Hastings and the coming of the Black Death. This secret race survived by drinking human blood, and the bodies of the last members have been interred in the Iraqi desert for hundreds of years. News of the discovery reaches Saddam Hussein, who wonders if fate has delivered him an unbeatable weapon in his fight against the West. He dreams of creating a supernatural army and sets his scientists to the task of using fluids from the site’s dead bodies to transform humans into unstoppable vampires who don’t fear garlic or sunlight. In Rich’s extremely clever, infectiously readable narrative, readers follow both the progress of Saddam’s program and, as the war on terror continues the U.S. presence in Iraq, the enlistment of Maj. Craymer’s nephew, Aaron. Thanks to a devious CIA operative, Aaron finds himself part of a group of servicemen who have been transformed into vampires and sent on covert missions. When the U.S. government changes its mind and tries to terminate them all, Aaron and his teammates use their newfound abilities to survive. The author’s big, complex plot sprawls over 10 years and two continents, but he manages it all with a confident hand. His dialogue is immediately believable, his tensely controlled action scenes build in intensity as the plot advances, and his pitch-perfect blending of sci-fi and military action will appeal equally to fans of Tom Clancy and True Blood.
An ingenious, thoroughly absorbing twist on the military-fiction genre.