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Saturday, June 28, 2014

ARC Review: Drone Strike by Dale Brown and Jim DeFelice

Dale Brown’s name is synonymous with military thrillers, and his collaboration with technothriller author Jim DeFelice has afforded the long-running air combat and weapons technology series, Dreamland, in its fifteenth instalment with DRONE STRIKE. Albeit DRONE STRIKE is the fifteenth in the series, it can be read and enjoyed as a standalone: there may be some deeper nuances to the story that are overlooked or relationships that may not seem as heartfelt in the absence of the full backstory, but it is still a complete, self-contained story that new readers can enjoy. One thing to keep in mind: DRONE STRIKE (and the Dreamland series) is a bona fide military thriller, so readers looking for romance should look elsewhere.

DRONE STRIKE sees Air Force ace pilot Turk Mako sent on a (probable) suicide mission to Iran with a team of Delta Force operators to destroy the country’s nuclear weapons stockpile from behind enemy lines and prevent a potential nuclear war. Whilst the war-on-terror plot itself isn’t particularly original, what sets it apart is its focus on advanced technology that seems fantastical but is within the realm of possibility and a deep exploration of the fine line between following orders and doing what is right. The technological aspect is a hallmark of the series, since the Dreamland facility in the Nevada desert is the nation’s most advanced aerospace-weapons development and testing facility, but DRONE STRIKE features nano unmanned aerial vehicles (nano-UAVs) with swarm intelligence that can be pre-programmed as a group to carry out various individual aspects of a mission and manually controlled on the fly. Nano-sized partially-autonomous drones that blow up Iranian nuclear weapons research facilities are pretty cool, but that high-tech aspect of the story is also its biggest drawback: in order to make the story realistic, Brown and DeFelice spend a lot of time expounding on the technology, which results in a fair amount of jargon and some very slow-moving, highly technical scenes. This is especially evident in the novel’s opening scenes, which make it start off somewhat awkwardly and may turn off readers not willing to slog through the technical details needed to set the stage for the rest of the story.

Once the technological stage and mission objective—destroy Iran’s nuclear programme—are set, the characters and their challenges and motivations drive the story (with the requisite action-packed scenes of a military thriller). Brown and DeFelice do a great job presenting each character with a personal challenge and exploring the fine line between ethics and politics: a President who decides to carry out an act of war without approval from Congress, a commander who must decide between the life of one person and the greater good and sends her protégé on a suicide mission, a Special Forces soldier tasked with protecting an asset by any means until the mission is completed who must decide whether to carry out his orders to kill the asset he’s befriended once the mission is successful, and a pilot hero experiencing his first real ground combat who must determine how far he’s willing to go to survive behind enemy lines. Turk Mako is an interesting and well-developed hero, an ace in the skies but surprisingly naïve about the realities of combat and somewhat overeager in his patriotism—but it’s that patriotism that makes him the perfect man to save the world from a nuclear holocaust. Dale and DeFelice are renowned for featuring the same characters in their long-running series, so it will be interesting to see how Turk’s experience of being the sacrificial lamb in the machinations of war shapes him in future books.

Overall, DRONE STRIKE is a thoroughly researched, well-crafted, and well-written read that provides high-stakes action-packed entertainment whilst also exploring the moral considerations inherent in protecting the free world. Fans of military or technothrillers, or of Dale and/or DeFelice, should definitely check it out.

**ARC provided by Publisher**

Purchase: | Amazon | Kindle | B&NThe Book Depository |


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