After a long, secret military buildup, China launches a swift and deadly attack on Taiwan. But that's only their first move in a much deadlier game.
In Rick Campbell's thrilling Empire Rising, Xiang Chenglei, Chinese president and party secretary, has both a problem and a plan. The problem is that China's limited supply of oil is threatening to derail its economic growth and prosperity. Having failed to win access to a greater supply diplomatically, he sets his backup plan in motion. And what is war, but diplomacy by other means?
The U.S. Pacific Fleet is the major military force in the area, and when Taiwan is invaded, the fleet is sent in to repel the invading Chinese forces. The U.S. military expects it to be an easy operation, but after a decades-long, top-secret buildup, China has military capabilities far greater than the United States is aware of. With hidden batteries of long range missiles, advanced cyber warfare capabilities, and a submarine fleet wielding a secret weapon, China is able to overwhelm the American fleet. In fact, China all but wipes out the U.S. Pacific Fleetleaving them free to turn to their real objectiveinvasion and expansion across Asia, starting with the four main islands of Japan.
While the Atlantic Fleet surges westward to defend its allies and respond to the destruction of their counterparts, it falls to an unlikely alliance of three people to stop this incursion and prevent an all-but-inevitable global war. National Security Advisor Christine O'Connor has critical information, but she's trapped in Beijing; Captain Murray Wilson, commanding officer of the submarine USS Michigan must somehow infiltrate the Chinese submarine blockade; and Navy SEAL Jake Harrison must lead a strike team into the most hostile of territories with only hours to implement the most daring plan ever.
About the Author
Rick Campbell, a retired Navy Commander, spent more than twenty years on multiple submarine tours. On his last tour, he was one of the two men whose permission was required to launch the submarine's nuclear warhead-tipped missiles. Campbell is the author of The Trident Deception, and lives with his family in the greater Washington, D.C. area.
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By Rick Campbell
St. Martin's PressCopyright © 2015 Rick Campbell
All rights reserved.
A light rain was falling from a gray, overcast sky as a black Lincoln Town Car merged onto the 14th Street Bridge, fighting its way north across three lanes of early morning traffic. In the back of the sedan, Christine O'Connor gazed through rain-streaked windows at the Potomac River flowing lazily east toward the Chesapeake Bay. She ignored the rhythmic thump of the sedan's windshield wipers, focused instead on the radio tuned to a local AM news station. As she listened to the morning's headlines, she wasn't surprised the most important news of the day was absent from the broadcast.
As the president's national security advisor, Christine was briefed daily on events occurring around the world with the potential to affect the safety of American citizens. This morning, she was returning from the Pentagon after her weekly intelligence brief with Secretary of Defense Nelson Jennings. Near the end of the meeting, the discussion had turned to yesterday's assassination of China's prime minister. There would be instability within China's Politburo Standing Committee as its eight remaining members determined the replacement for the second most powerful person in China. Concern was voiced about the loss of Bai Tao, a staunch opponent to using military force to resolve China's conflicts. Considering what the United States was contemplating signing, that was not an insignificant issue.
The MAER Accord—the Mutual Access to Environmental Resources Accord—was the exact opposite of what it purported to be. Christine opened the manila folder in her lap, revealing the one-inch-thick document on the right side and her notes on the left, and began reviewing them one final time before her meeting with the president. Upon reading its title, one would think the accord ensured equal access to the world's supply of natural resources, which were straining to meet the demands of the industrialized and developing countries. Oil and natural gas production were simply not keeping pace, and within three years, there would not be enough to go around.
Instead of ensuring every country would receive their fair share, the MAER Accord included complicated price calculations that favored the United States and its allies. Less fortunate countries, including China, would be forced to pay much higher prices. Additionally, it included a military defense assurance between the United States and the Pacific Rim nations, who were fearful of an aggressive China, which had been rattling its sword and staking claim to many of the region's natural resources. The future lay in vast Asian offshore oil fields, and the half-century-long MAER Accord assured America and its allies would have access to the resources their economies would require for the next fifty years. In return, America would respond to any attempt by another country to claim the natural resources of another.
Christine's Town Car turned right on West Executive Avenue, bringing her closer to the White House and her final meeting on the accord with the president and Kevin Hardison. The mere thought of the president's chief of staff threatened to bring on a migraine. They were once close friends, working together on Congressman Tim Johnson's staff twenty years ago, when Hardison, ten years her senior, had been her mentor. But all that changed once she became the president's national security advisor, when she surprised Hardison with a mind of her own, refusing to subordinate herself to his orders.
Unlike most administrations, the president preferred to have counsel from both political parties. Unfortunately, Christine was the outsider, which meant she had the burden of fighting the uphill battles. Still, she had won a surprisingly large percentage of them, which was probably one of the reasons for the animosity between her and Hardison. Their disdain for each other wouldn't help in a few minutes when they met in the Oval Office, with one last opportunity to convince the president of the dangerous repercussions of signing the MAER Accord.
The Lincoln Town Car pulled to a stop under the north portico, next to two Marines in Dress Blues guarding the formal entrance to the West Wing. Standing between the two Marines—almost a head taller—was a Navy Captain wearing the Navy's version of its Dress Blues, with four gold stripes on each sleeve. Steve Brackman was the president's senior military aide, with whom she had forged a close working relationship. Christine had called ahead and asked him to meet her when she returned to the White House. As she prepared for battle with the president's powerful chief of staff, she preferred to have the military on her side.
Brackman greeted her as she stepped from the sedan, polite as always. "Good morning, Miss O'Connor."
Christine returned the Captain's greeting, and Brackman followed her to her corner office. She entered and dropped off her leather briefcase, but Brackman stopped at the entrance to her office. Christine returned to the doorway.
"I'm sorry, Miss O'Connor. Mr. Hardison requested I meet with him in a few minutes. Is there something quick I can help you with?"
Christine frowned. Hardison apparently had the same battle plan she had. She answered, "The president is going to make his decision on the MAER Accord today. Hardison is pushing the president to sign it while I'm advising against it. I wanted to spend a few minutes with you, so you fully understood my concerns."
"I think I understand both sides of the argument," Brackman replied.
Christine pressed her lips together. As the president's senior military aide, Brackman could tip the scales. "And your recommendation will be ...?"
Brackman's eyes searched hers for a moment, and it seemed he was about to answer, but he checked his watch instead. "If you'll excuse me."
As Brackman turned to leave, Christine grabbed his arm. "Don't let him persuade you. I'm counting on your support."
Brackman hesitated before replying. "I know, Miss O'Connor." He eased his arm from her grip, then turned and headed toward Hardison's office.
Christine watched him disappear down the hallway, then decided to wait where she could keep an eye on the Oval Office's doors. She headed down the seventy-foot-long hallway, turning left into the Roosevelt Room. While she waited, she took the opportunity to admire the two oil paintings hanging on opposing walls: Alfred Jonniaux's portrait of Franklin Delano Roosevelt seated behind his desk, and Tade Styka's equestrian portrait of Theodore Roosevelt titled Rough Rider. In accordance with tradition, the incoming administration had reversed the two portraits, placing the image of FDR over the fireplace and Theodore Roosevelt to Christine's right, on the south wall.
As Christine examined the portrait of Theodore Roosevelt, she reflected on his famous slogan—Speak softly and carry a big stick. If the president signed the MAER Accord and China responded as she predicted, the United States was going to need a big stick, indeed.
There was a knock on the Roosevelt Room's open door, and Christine turned to spot chief of staff Kevin Hardison, who tapped his watch. "The president's waiting."
* * *
Christine followed Hardison into the Oval Office. Captain Brackman also joined them, and Christine took her seat in the middle of three chairs opposite the president's desk, with Hardison and Brackman flanking her.
The president addressed Christine. "Any details on the assassination of China's prime minister?"
Christine answered, "Our Intel agencies have narrowed the potential motives down to the two most probable. The first is a terrorist attack by one of the separatist organizations from the Xinjiang region in northwest China. The second is internal strife within the Politburo, with one of the junior members taking matters into his own hands. In that case, Shen Yi is the leading suspect. He's the longest serving Politburo member, yet sits third in the power structure behind Xiang Chenglei, the general secretary of the Party and president of China, and Xiang's protégé, Bai Tao, the prime minister. Shen is getting up in years, and the death of Bai Tao is fortunate from his perspective, making him the leading candidate to replace Xiang when he steps down." Christine paused for a moment. "Or if something happens to Xiang."
The specter of Politburo strife plunging China's leadership into chaos couldn't have come at a worse time. The instability would make an accurate prediction of China's response to the MAER Accord impossible. In concert with Christine's thoughts, Hardison changed the subject.
"We need to discuss the accord, sir. The terms expire at the end of this week, so you need to sign it before you leave this afternoon for Camp David."
"What are the current projections?" the president asked.
Hardison replied, "Without price constraints, world demand for oil will increase by eight percent per year, with oil production increasing by only one percent. To reduce oil consumption to within production capacity, the price of oil will double over the next three years. We crafted the accord to prevent skyrocketing prices, and the terms we negotiated are more than fair, restricting each country to an appropriate percentage of the world's oil supply."
"The terms are not fair," Christine replied. "The method used to calculate each country's fair share is flawed, and you know it. The accord will strangle China's economy."
Hardison shrugged as he turned toward Christine. "And that's a bad thing? They had their chance to negotiate a better deal, and failed."
"They failed because we bribed our way to favorable terms, offering over a hundred billion dollars in military grants."
"We negotiated," Hardison jabbed. "Negotiated."
Christine folded her arms across her chest. "Bribed."
Hardison leveled a malevolent gaze at Christine before turning back to the president. "Gasoline prices have doubled since you took office and will double again before the reelection if you don't sign the accord. If you want another term in office, you don't have a choice."
"I don't recommend it," Christine interjected. "The main question is whether China will use its military to obtain the resources it needs. They won't be able to buy the oil and natural gas they require, and they might use their military to obtain it by force. It'll be Japan and Pearl Harbor all over again. In 1941, the United States placed an embargo on oil and gasoline exports to Japan, cutting off eighty percent of their oil supply. Japan did in 1941 what China will likely do today—they moved south to secure the natural resources they required.
"The Pacific Rim contains several billion barrels of oil, plus nine hundred trillion cubic feet of natural gas. China has already staked claim to the Spratly Island Archipelago and the Senkaku Islands. The Spratly Islands alone are under the control of six different nations, and if China decides to enforce its claim to these islands and their offshore natural resources, it's going to put the United States in a bind. Per the MAER Accord, we'll have to come to the defense of these countries. We'll be at war with China. Is that what you want? Because that's exactly what you'll get if you sign the accord."
"China wouldn't dare start a war," Hardison replied. "They know we'd come to the aid of anyone they attacked. And another thing to consider, Mr. President," he cast a derisive glance in Christine's direction, "is that Christine has a track record of being wrong, so I recommend you factor that into your decision."
Christine leveled an icy stare at the chief of staff. She hadn't kept tally, but was pretty sure it was Hardison who was wrong most of the time. His long list of flaws apparently included a short memory.
* * *
While Christine glared at Hardison, the president reflected on the relationship between the man and woman sitting across from him. Aside from a temporary truce following the Kentucky incident, Christine and Hardison got along like oil and vinegar, and didn't realize what a great team they made. He had selected Hardison as his chief of staff primarily for his experience, and secondarily for his ruthlessness, an essential trait of an effective chief of staff. But he also recognized Hardison's zeal would intimidate many of the men and women on his staff and in his Cabinet.
He had wanted a strong national security advisor, someone with the necessary background and keen insight. But—just as important—he needed someone who wouldn't wither under Hardison's overbearing demeanor, and he had known after his interview with Christine that she was the right woman for the job. She told him his proposed policies would ruin the country's ability to defend itself. She spoke her mind and pulled no punches.
Christine was the right woman for the job, and it didn't hurt that she was attractive. He noticed how his two teenage sons popped out of the woodwork whenever Christine dropped by the Executive Residence. Their eyes followed her every movement, surveying her attractive face—sparkling blue eyes framed by auburn hair—and her lean, yet womanly curves. After Christine departed, the two boys would vanish as quickly as they appeared.
* * *
The president clearing his throat brought Christine's attention back to the commander-in-chief. He looked toward Brackman. "What's your assessment? If China uses its military, can we defeat them?"
Brackman didn't immediately respond, and the president's question hung in the air as Brackman cast a sideways glance at Christine before focusing on the president.
"If China starts a war over oil," Brackman answered, "we can defend any country they attack. Although they've significantly modernized their military over the last decade, they're still no match for our Pacific Fleet. With five carrier strike groups off China's shore, along with our Marine Expeditionary Forces—two Marine divisions and their air wings—any attempt to seize oil reserves in the region will be defeated."
Christine gave Brackman a frosty glare as the president absorbed the Captain's words, his eyes canvassing each of the individuals seated in front of him. Christine felt a deepening uneasiness as the president moved toward his decision.
Finally, he spoke. "I'll sign the accord."
A smile broke across Hardison's face. "I'll have Sikes inform the press. How about a signing in the Rose Garden at noon?"
The president nodded. "That's fine." His gaze swept across the three individuals on the other side of his desk. "Anything else?" After all three offered negative shakes of their heads, the president added, "I'll see you at noon."
Christine stood, leading the way from the Oval Office. Brackman turned right as he exited while Christine and Hardison turned left, headed toward their diametrically opposed corner offices in the West Wing. Christine looked up at Hardison as he joined her at her side.
"You better be right," she said.
Hardison offered a smug, condescending smile. "I always am."
No other words were exchanged. As the chief of staff entered his office while Christine turned right, toward hers, her instinct told her signing the accord was a serious mistake.CHAPTER 2
FUJIAN PROVINCE, CHINA
As the sun slipped behind the Wuyi Mountains, shadows crept east from the red sandstone slopes, sinking into the lush green gorges of the Jiuqu Xi River before encroaching on the Pacific Ocean. Not far from the coast, a lone figure ascended a narrow trail toward a grassy plateau overlooking the East China Sea, its frothy white waves crashing into the rocky shore six hundred feet below. With a steady gait, the elderly man moved toward a circular stone building flanked by a curving thicket of magnolia trees.
After climbing a half-dozen cracked stone steps, Xiang Chenglei entered the Mazu temple, stopping before the altar to kneel on the cold granite floor. In the four corners of the building, torches flickered in the fading light, bathing the goddess of the sea and her two dragon guardians in dancing hues of amber and burnt orange. Carved from the metamorphic mountain rock, Mazu sat upon her throne holding a ceremonial tablet in her right hand, a staff in the other. On her left coiled the fierce dragon Thousand Miles Eye, the red paint peeling from the two-horned guardian, while on her right reclined the fading green With-the-Wind Ear, the dragon's single horn broken near its tip.
For tonight's prayer, Xiang knew he could have chosen a more decorative temple, with Mazu and her guardians fabricated from precious metals and jewels instead of simple stone and paint, but it was fitting that he knelt before this unadorned goddess just as his mother had done countless times when Xiang was a child. As he knelt beside her in silence, the moisture collecting in her eyes, he wondered what she prayed for; she clasped her hands so tightly her fingers turned white. It was not until Xiang became an adult that his father explained, the revelation igniting his hatred. Tonight, forty years after learning his mother's dark secret, personal and political aspirations had unexpectedly converged. Lijuan and China would finally have justice.
Excerpted from Empire Rising by Rick Campbell. Copyright © 2015 Rick Campbell. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
I read Mr. Campbell's first book, "The Trident Deception," and really, really enjoyed it...so getting his second novel was a no-brainer for me. This book is a sequel, of sorts, and a number of the characters carry through from the first book. I like that style. That is why I read just about anything written by Tom Clancy, Nelson DeMille, Brad Thor, Vince Flynn (RIP) and authors like them. I enjoy military/terror/political thrillers and have added Rick Campbell to my relatively short watch list. I won't summarize the story line; you can easily find that elsewhere. I will say this though; I'm pretty certain a US Navy carrier battle group has not been engaged at sea by hostile forces since World War II. That was 60 years ago. Just about everything except the gray color we paint our ships has changed since then. In his story Mr. Campbell had to take on the challenge of theorizing what would happen in a current day battle at sea with modern weapons systems. I think he got it right in this story and how it pans out might surprise you. Additionally, the portions of the story that deal with our submarines and their undersea cat and mouse engagements with enemy subs are absolutely riveting! And that is not a surprise since this is what the author did for over twenty years. Somehow, though, like in "The Trident Deception," he keeps his readers in mind. Throughout the book, and especially during the intense moments of undersea battle dialogue, Mr. Campbell does a particularly good job of "toning down" the navy "techno-speak" so that the average civilian reader has little difficulty keeping up with what is happening...and it happens fast and furiously! I get up fairly early each morning and do my reading in the evening during the quiet after the TV goes off and my wife goes to bed. I couldn't put the damn book down and ended up quite weary for a few mornings in a row. I was sorry to have the story end but glad I could get back to a normal sleep cycle. That said, I'm already looking forward to Mr. Campbell's next book. I don't know why it is that some people know how to write and others don't. Rick Campbell has that "stuff," whatever it is, that allows him to enter my home with a story that completely distracts me from my own life and forces me to live in his story until it is over. That is a good thing.
Just like his first book, The Trident Deception, Campbell writes another novel that you just can't put down. In a Tom Clancy-ish fashion, Campbell engages the reader in a suspenseful story. While he employs his obviously vast experience in Naval war tactics, he also successfully engages in realistically believable political scenarios. The story is faced paced beginning to end. I'm certainly looking forward to a third novel from this talented writer.
This book is the tale of a future war between China and the U.S. It draws on the Japanese-US conflict in WW II revamped with contemporary technology & weaponry. Campbell is a master story teller with characters we really care about as well as technical expertise in modern weaponry. The use of cyber weapons is clever and interesting. This book is creative and fun to read.
I wasnt expecting Tom Clancy, but coming from a former naval officer a lot off silly things in this book. He has an aircraft carrier somehow recovering an entire squadron of f18s, not only wihout any arresting wires, but also with a huge hole in the flight deck? Somehow china has found a way to disable our most reliable mk48 torpedos with an active sonar pulse (yeah, right),allowing them to wippe out every sub in the pacific fleet. But when one sub figures a way around it, it doesnt tell any one else about it? The heroine smuggles a thumb drive containing the entire chineese battle plan to the us, and it is decoded. However that is the last you hear about it, and it apparently has no bearing on the war at all. The author actually says that because we were able to recover and repair most of the ships in our shallow home port after pearl harbor, that we would be able to do the same thing to all the lost subs and 4 aircraft carrier battle groups in the taiwan straight. Even though pearl harbor is so shallow most of the ships only had a few feet under keel and never truly sank. But somehow we could do the same, in over 200 feet of water, half way around the world in hostile waters right under the nose of the chineese. The chineese are so advanced with hacking and IT they used it to infect our subs, sattelites and aegis systems, but after the hero escapes their headquarters using a palm print an chineese agent enters into heir security system, the chineese never discover this, which allows her to use it weeks later to help a seal team infiltrate the same building? I could go on and on. Just so non plausible as to be ridiculous. Good concept, badly executed. Ill be skipping the next one from this author.
This yarn is a waste of time and money. It's one thing to have a thrill a minute. It's not unusual for the heroine to be gorgeous and amazingly talented in mind and body, or for the hero to match such qualities. It keeps one on edge to make it through a deadly crisis, page after page. It becomes a "penny dreadful" when the tale is carried forward by an implausible string of coincidences and fortuitous escapes from the inevitable. The idea of costly warfare adds excitement, but logic cannot be thrown out the window. One glaring example among the many such fantasies is to have four large aircraft carriers converging into the Taiwan Strait to conduct combat air operations while opposed by a large flock of enemy submarines. No naval tactician would EVER do such a thing, and the author, a retired naval officer, no less, should know better. I am also a retired naval officer. Years ago I was a small part of the Taiwan Patrol, wherein two destroyers barely had room to maneuver without bumping into each other. The strait is only 200 feet deep, which makes life very awkward for a submarine. Its width varies from 81 to 110 miles, with a few islands peppered in the middle. Its length is about 100 miles. That box is just too small for even one carrier, with its escorts, to carry out its main function. Furthermore, Taiwan is only about 100 miles wide. A carrier would far more reasonably launch airstrikes in the strait from north, south, or preferably east of that island. The author's train of events is too often derailed in the reader's mind.
Be on less and come to the republic
Even though Mr. Campbell's publications are limited, each of his last two are absolutely world class...
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