New hell has been visited upon war-torn Afghanistan in Young’s (Silent Enemy, 2011, etc.) latest action adventure tale.
A devastating earthquake has struck. Villages are left in rubble. Thousands are homeless, exposed and in need of rescue or relief. Into the breach goes U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Michael Parson, a decorated combat veteran now working as a liaison with the Afghan Air Force. Parson is an experienced navigator and airlift pilot, but even though he isn’t a “rotorhead,” Parson is working with Capt. Rashid and his crew flying a Soviet-built Mi-17 helicopter. In assisting in organizing and administrating effective Afghan flying units, Parson has requested the help of a colleague from another combat service, Army Sgt. Maj. Sophia Gold, a skilled translator of the Pashto language. The two are soon tossed into a chaotic situation. A Taliban splinter group, the Black Crescent led by Bakht Sahar, known as Chaaku (knife in Pashto), is killing aid workers, disrupting delivery of supplies and, worst of all, taking children hostage to be used as suicide bombers. Young writes solidly about the complex dynamics of Afghan-American interaction. He also explores social differences by having Gold become a vital link in the attempt to wheedle information from one of the wives of Mullah Durrani, veteran of the mujahedin and the Taliban, grown too old to fight. In fact, Gold arranges a clandestine meeting and goes on a rogue mission to see Durrani. From there, she develops information that leads to the discovery of Chaaku’s fortress redoubt. Young is an Iraqi-Afghan war veteran, and he treats Afghan allies with due respect, acknowledges difficulties in bridging the gap between cultures and crafts a bad guy worth shooting. His grasp of military terminology, esoteric paraphernalia and ethos are spot-on, but don’t expect a ratcheted-up, loss-of-city narrative standard in a Tom Clancy or Dan Brown thriller. The slam-bang, good-guys-win conclusion comes with a well-described battle at Kuh-e Qara Batar, Chaaku’s mountain lair.
Real-life experience translated into page-turning fiction.