Get Ready for World War III
Dale Brown returns to the world stage in Battle Born, picking up loose ends from his 1997 technothriller, Fatal Terrain. That novel began as China launched a small-scale nuclear assault on Taiwan after it declared full independence and sovereignty. At the same time, a nuclear explosion in Yokosuka Harbor outside Tokyo destroyed several American warships, including the aircraft carrier USS Independence. Although the Chinese were suspected, the actual culprit was never positively identified. When the United States tried to halt the PRC's attacks against Taiwan, the Chinese retaliated by launching a nuclear attack against U.S. military bases on Guam. A stunned U.S. struck back, effectively destroying both China's air force and its last remaining ICBMs, but afterward chose not to escalate the conflict.
Two years later, the U.S. is keeping a wary eye on the Chinese and trying to mend fences with nervous allies. Japan, for example, fearful of Chinese aggression, has closed down all U.S. military bases. Little does anyone know that another wild card is about to be played, this time by South Korea. A joint U.S.-Japanese-South Korean military exercise goes horribly awry when South Korean pilots race across the DMZ to support a massive people's revolt against the communists. To everyone's surprise, the bold initiative succeeds. Armed with weapons the Chinese provided to the North, the newly minted United Korea becomes the world's newest nuclear power. Ironically, its most likely target is China, who many fear will launch a preemptive strike on the fledgling nation.
Seeking to contain the situation, a shaken U.S. president turns to Generals Terrill Samson and Patrick McLanahan. Backed by technological marvels developed at Groom Lake (a top-secret military facility) and supported by a feisty group of fliers appropriated from the Nevada Air National Guard ("Battle Born" is Nevada's state motto), McLanahan once again enters the fray, this time trying desperately to avert the beginning of World War III. The odds are against him, but this doesn't phase McLanahan a bit -- he's made a career out of bucking the odds.
Obviously pitched toward technothriller fans (Tom Clancy fans will feel right at home here), Battle Born will satisfy general readers as well. For those who crave a charismatic hero, it stars Brown's long-running series character, Patrick McLanahan. For political junkies, it brims with domestic and international intrigue. There's hardware aplenty for techno geeks, air battles for avionics buffs, and plenty of thrills for action fans.
The book also has a serious side. Although Brown could have better depicted the human cost of the carnage (basically, all we get are numbers), he does a great job of casting light on the current global situation. McLanahan's volatile world differs from our own, but not by much. The Korean situation he depicts is especially plausible -- the conditions described in Battle Born are eerily close to those that exist in those troubled countries today. Hopefully, should events develop in our reality as they do in Battle Born, soldiers like Patrick McLanahan will step forward to save the day.
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Last spotted on a singlehanded crusade against international terrorism in The Tin Man, veteran hero Patrick McLanahan, now a one-star general, is back at the head of a U.S. Air Force team in this 12th military techno-thriller from the ever-popular Brown. The general's crew--a motley gang of rule-breaking hotheads from the Nevada Air National Guard--is unorthodox, but desperate times call for desperate measures. It's April 2000, and a starving North Korean pilot has just tried to take out Seoul with nuclear weapons. This leads to the Second Korean War, as American flyers help their South Korean allies conquer a seriously weakened enemy. But a new united Korea is soon threatening China, and only McLanahan's team, flying Megafortress bombers equipped with sophisticated antiballistic missiles, can prevent nuclear conflict. Sidestepping obstructive air force bureaucracy and quelling the feuds smoldering among his pilots, McLanahan takes on the role of a renegade elder statesman in his latest foray, leaving most of the flying to his Nevada team, headed by Rinc "Rodeo" Seaver and Rinc's clandestine lover and commanding officer, Rebecca Furness. Seaver, accused of causing the deaths of three officers in a training maneuver, has a lot to prove, and it is his story that drives the personal subplot. Brown's strongest suit, however, has always been his ability to generate tension through high-wire aeronautics and technological breakthroughs, and in this tale he flourishes an ace: top secret plasma-yield warheads, subatomic weapons that silently vaporize their targets. His dialogue is as stilted as ever, and the acronym count as high, but Brown's poetry lies in his exhaustive tribute to the machinery of war, and fans will thrill to it once again in this solid addition to the series. Agent, Robert Gottlieb at William Morris. Simultaneous BDD audio. (Nov.) Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.
Aerial warfare expert Patrick MacLanahan is back and, as in Fatal Terrain, he's battling his cowardly military superiors, egotistical politicians in Washington, and just about everyone else on the globe. He must risk his career and his life to deploy newly developed Air Force technology and nullify the threat of global thermonuclear war (posed by a conflict between China and Korea). Longtime action-fiction writer Brown has created a world dominated by paranoia, military concerns, and the hardware of modern war. His characters have the annoying habit of repeating and contradicting themselves. They also speak at great length about their fondness for weaponry--pages of description and detail about aircraft and ordinance slow down an otherwise fast-moving if predictable story. Public libraries with Brown fans will want to purchase this title, but there is little reason for anyone else to do so. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 8/99.]--Patrick J. Wall, University City P.L., MO Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.
...[T]he real heroes are sleek, supersonic Air Force B-1B bombers. Brown isn't big on character development. Some of the humans in Battle Born are little more than names and a few adjectives.
The return of the tin man, retired USAF Brigadier General Patrick McLanahan, Brown's chief hero among those who have saved the world from China's invasion of the Philippines in Sky Masters, of Taiwan in both Fatal Terrain and The Tin Man (1998), and in various novels saved Europe from a war between Lithuania and Byelorussia, Europe from invasion by Russia, and been on hand for Gulf War II. Bestseller Brown's technothrillers never involve small stakes. The man himself is civilian director of a high-tech company making cutting-edge advances in strategic devices for the armed services. Battle Born kicks off the Second Korean War when a joint US/South Korean–Japanese aerial war game goes awry as South Korean pilots break away and give a supportive attack on Communist forces facing a massive popular uprising. Not long after, the South Koreans come into possession of two North Korean thermonuclear gravity bombs. Will Asia ignite WWIII? Will Dale Brown? As it happens, technospecialist McLanahan has been training a hot-shot group of young pilots who simmer to save the world should North Korea boldly attack South Korea, which in itself means that, yes, China will come the aid of a fellow Communist nation and Brown & McLanahan be right at home fending off the Chinese Air Force. Meanwhile, how will he romance Lt. Col. Rebecca Catherine Furness, and how will the new EB-1 Megafortress with its amazing LADAR (laser radar) navigation device come into play? Chockablock technotalk lifts skyward on plottoblast as Brown flips on all the electrosensors seeking the next Danger! Danger! Danger! signal. (Note: Brown names as US Vice President one Ellen Christine Whiting just as New Jersey GovernorChristine Whitman gets touted for the VP slot with George W. Bush. Now that's futurific.)
From the Publisher
"A first-class thriller."
-- Abilene Reporter-News
"Brown serves up enough ... lethal hardware and over-the-top action to satisfy the most discerning techno-thriller fan."
-- USA Today
"Brown's poetry lies in his exhaustive tribute to the machinery of war, and fans will thrill to it once again in this solid addition to the series."
-- Publishers Weekly
Also by Dale Brown:
The Tin Man
Read an Excerpt
MILITARY TECHNOLOGY SUBCOMMITTEE, SENATE ARMED SERVICES COMMITTEE, RAYBURN BUILDING, WASHINGTON, D.C.
"I hoped we'd never be facing this question again in my lifetime," the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee said, his voice serious. "But here it is. Looks like the devil's goin' to the prom, and we're praying he don't ask us to dance."
The main part of the morning's classified, closed hearing had already concluded; the scientists and comptrollers had packed up their charts and spreadsheets, leaving only the subcommittee members, several general officers, and a few aides. This was the open debate portion of the session, a "chat session" where everything was fair game and the uniformed officers had a last chance to persuade. It was usually more casual and more freewheeling than formal subcommittee testimony, and it gave all involved a chance to vent their frustrations and opinions.
"I'd say, Senator," Air Force General Victor G. Hayes, the chief of staff of the Air Force, responded, "that we've got no choice but to dance with that devil. The question is, can we keep him from only tipping over the punch bowl, or is he going to burn down the whole school gymnasium if we don't do something?"
"You characterize the attacks on Taiwan and Guam as just a tipped-over punch bowl, General?" a committee member asked.
General Hayes shook his head and wiped the smile from his face. He knew better than to try to get too chummy or casual with these committee members, no matter how plain-talking and down-home they sometimes sounded.
This was the first time Victor "Jester" Hayes had testified before any committee in Congress. Although the Pentagon gave"charm school" classes and seminars to high-ranking officers on how to handle reporters, dignitaries, and civilians in a variety of circumstances, including giving testimony before Congress, it was simply impossible to fully prepare for ordeals like this. He did not feel comfortable here, and he was afraid it showed. Big-time.
The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Navy Admiral George Balboa, was seated beside Hayes. The other members of the Joint ChiefsGeneral William Marshall, Army chief of staff; Admiral Wayne Connor, chief of Naval Operations; and General Peter Traherne, commandant of the Marine Corps, along with senior deputies and aideswere also seated at the table facing the subcommittee. Out of the corner of his eye, Hayes could see the barely disguised amusement on some of their faces. Balboa in particular seemed to be enjoying the sight of Hayes roasting a little in front of a congressional subcommittee.
Screw 'em all, Hayes told himself resolutely. I'm a fighter pilot. I'm an aerial assassin. These congressmen may be high-ranking elected government officials, but they wouldn't understand a good fight if it kicked them in the ass. Be yourself. Show 'em what you got. As far as Balboa was concernedwell, he was a weasel, and everyone knew it. He was virtually powerless, allowed to keep his position by the good graces of powerful opposition party members in Congress even though he publicly ambushed his Commander in Chief.
"Forgive me for trying to take some of the doomsday tone out of this discussion, Senator," Hayes responded. "After two days of secret testimony on some of the new 'black' weapons programs we've included in the Air Force budget, I thought it might be time for a little break. But I assure you: this is a very serious matter. The future of the United States Air Force, and indeed the fate of our military forces and the nation itself, will be determined in the next several years by the decisions we make today.
"I characterize the ballistic missile attacks on Taiwan and Guam by the People's Republic of China as a repudiation of thirty years of arms reduction efforts and a warning to the United States armed forces that we must develop a multilayered antimissile defense system immediately. We bargained away our antimissile capabilities in the 1970s, believing that nonproliferation would lead to peace. Now, in the face of renewed aggression, rearmament, terrorism, and the spread of small-scale and black-market weapons of mass destruction, I feel we have no choice but to rebuild our defensive forces. The days of believing that our conventional precision war-fighting capability obviated and obsoleted decades of nuclear warfare strategy and technology are history."
"Apparently so," one committee member said ruefully. "I for one am mystified and angry about this waste of time, money, and resources. We've spent hundreds of billions of dollars on these new "smart' weapons, and now you're saying they won't protect us?"
"I'm saying that the rules are changing, Senator," General Hayes said earnestly, "and we must change with them.
"We gave away our defensive capability because we kept a large, strong offensive force, including nuclear deterrent forces. We then dismantled those deterrent forces when the threat from other superpowers diminished. Now the threat is back, but we have neither defensive nor deterrent forces in place. That leaves us vulnerable to criticism at best and attack at worst. The China incident is a perfect example."
"That's all fine and good, General, but these budget numbers are staggering, and the path you want to embark on here reminds me of the nuclear nightmare times of Eisenhower, Kennedy, and Reagan," the senator went on, motioning to his staff report. "You're asking for billions more on some truly horrifying programs, like antiballistic missile lasers, space-based lasers, and these so-called plasma-yield weapons. What's going on, General? Is the Air Force so desperate for a mission right now that you'll even go back to "mutually assured destruction' doctrines of the Cold War?"
"Members of the committee, I asked Secretary of Defense Chastain and Secretary of the Air Force Mortonson to give the Air Force a budget for the deployment of a new class of weapons not to shock or galvanize the Congress, but because I truly believe the time has long passed for us to be thinking about this kind of war fighting," General Hayes went on. "China's recent nuclear attacks on Taiwan; its suspected nuclear sabotage of the aircraft carrier USS Independence in Yokosuka Harbor; and its shocking, unprovoked, and horrific ballistic missile nuclear attack on the island of Guam, which all but wiped Anderson Air Force Base off the map three years ago, all are a warning to the United States."
"It's a warning, all right," another senator offered. "But it seems more a warning to avoid stepping up to the edge of that slippery slope. Do we want to start another nuclear arms race?"
It seemed as if most folks in America had all but forgotten what had happened only three years ago, Hayes thought grimly. In 1997, just before their "Reunification Day" celebrations, the People's Republic of China launched a small-scale nuclear assault on Taiwan, which had just declared full independence and sovereignty from the mainland. Several Taiwanese military bases were decimated; over fifty thousand persons lost their lives. At the same time, a nuclear explosion in Yokosuka Harbor outside Tokyo destroyed several American warships, including the soon-to-be-retired aircraft carrier USS Independence. China was accused of that unconscionable act, but the actual culprit was never positively identified. When the United States tried to halt the PRC's attacks against Taiwan, China retaliated by launching a nuclear ballistic missile attack on the island of Guam, shutting down two important American military bases in the Pacific.
The reverberations of that fateful summer of 1997 were still being felt. Japan had closed down all U.S. military bases on their soil and had only recently begun allowing some limited access to U.S. warshipsprovisioning and humanitarian shore leave only, with ships at anchor in the harbor, not in port, and no weapons transfers in their territorial waters. South Korea was permitting only routine provisioning and shore leavethey were allowing no weapons transfers within five miles of shore and prohibited staging military operations from their ports. It was the same for most ports of call in the western Pacific. American naval presence in the Pacific was almost nil.
And America's response to China's attacks was . . . silence. Except for one massive joint Air Force/Navy defensive air armada around Taiwan that all but destroyed China's Air Force, and an isolated but highly effective series of air raids inside Chinalargely attributed to American stealth bombers, aided by Taiwanese fightersthe Americans had not retaliated. It was world condemnation alone that eventually forced China to abandon its plan to force Taiwan back into its sphere of influence.
"I'm concerned about the path Russia, Japan, and North Korea are taking in the wake of the economic collapse in Asia and the conflict in the Balkans," Hayes went on. "Russia appears to be back in the hands of hard-liners and neo-Communists. Food riots in North Korea have led to the slaughter of thousands of civilians by military forces foraging for food. Japan has isolated us out of the Pacific and is proceeding with plans to remilitarize, all in an apparent attempt to shore up confidence in its government. I don't believe the United States sparked this return to the specter of the Cold War, but we must be prepared to deal with it."
"We are all shocked and horrified about all those events as well, General," the senator pointed out, "and we agree with the President that we must be better prepared for radical changes in the political climate. But this . . . this buildup of such powerful weapons that you're asking for seems to be an overreaction. What you are proposing goes far beyond what any of us see as a measured response to world events."
General Hayes swallowed hard. This was turning into a much harder sell than he had expected. While the world slowly went back to an uneasy, suspicious peace, President Kevin Martindale was roundly criticized for his inaction. Although China was stopped and an all-out nuclear conflict was averted, many Americans wanted someone to pay a bigger price for the hundreds of thousands who had died on Taiwan, Guam, and onboard the four Navy warships destroyed in Yokosuka Harbor. The hawkish President was slammed in the press for abandoning the capital onboard Air Force One during the attacks on Taiwan, while failing to use most of the military power he had spent his entire career in Washington trying to build up.
No one could say precisely what Martindale should have done, but everyone was convinced he should have done something more.
From the Audio Cassette edition.