Bond delivers a naval thriller on a stage that covers half the globe.
China has overreached by trying to grab the tiny, resource-rich Spratly Islands and make the South China Sea its private preserve. Their submarines start sinking other nations’ merchant vessels. Some of its angry neighbors, including India, Japan and Vietnam, form the Littoral Alliance to fight China’s expansionism. Soon, war breaks out, and the United States very much wants to stay out of it—or better yet, stop it. Cmdr. Jerry Mitchell is among those tasked to interfere with attacks on shipping by placing his submarine between attackers and their targets. Still, the conflict escalates. Thousands of people die on both sides, and the conflict could go nuclear. What can the United States possibly do? Cmdr. Mitchell has the president’s ear and offers up an idea that’s either a cockamamie scheme or a brilliant tactic. This novel is rich with weapons terminology and will please any fan of naval fiction. Every nation gets its point of view in scenes that often switch back and forth quickly. There seem to be no villains, only nations with competing interests. The hero is the United States, specifically Mitchell. That’s fair enough, although with the lengthy cast of characters it’s hard for the reader to get emotionally invested in anyone else. But the tradeoff is the impressive scope and complexity of the plot. One may well hope that nations are not still such fools as to risk their existence the way they do in this story or that their salvation might lie in one brave man’s outlandish idea. But for fiction, it holds together well.
Both benefits and suffers from its broad scope, as some scenes could easily be cut. Still, a highly readable yarn.