RogerBW's Blog

Exit Plan, Larry Bond and Chris Carlson 14 April 2014

Jerry Mitchell, aboard an Ohio SSGN, goes on a mission to extract two Iranians with knowledge of the nuclear weapons programme from that country. Mild spoilers will follow.

Carlson continues to impress. I'm no longer in any doubt about who's writing these books; I've read Bond when he tries to write Arabs (in The Enemy Within and Day of Wrath), and they just come over as cackling villains, sometimes under a deceptive mannered façade; this is on a whole different level.

As in Cold Choices, things start out well and rapidly go horribly wrong. Technical malfunctions and smart Iranian security forces turn a simple extraction operation into a multi-day nightmare. Also as in Cold Choices, the characters are at least two and a half dimensional. The two Iranians have reasons for having turned traitor, and aren't entirely happy about leaving their country and families behind; the various other Iranians have motivations for doing what they do, and some are more competent than others; but most remarkable of all for a book published in the USA to appeal to military fans, Israel is presented less as a good friend and more as a dangerous ally, prone to fly off the handle and follow the path to war laid out for it by the Iranians.

To be honest, there's less submarining than I'd like, though there's a good battle scene near the end; the bulk of the book sees Mitchell ashore with a SEAL squad, and while the writing is good and tension is maintained I'd been expecting a bit more by way of naval warfare. There is however an excellent sequence from the point of view of one of the Iranians, in which he's bracing himself for a protracted firefight… and it's then over in a few seconds. On the other hand, several of the good guys come across as surprisingly defeatist and even whiny.

On the political level it feels a bit more simplistic, with characters who seem to exist mostly to explain viewpoints and basic international politics. Similarly the flashback sequence that explains how Mitchell now comes to be married feels rather like the author saying "oops, forgot to put anything about this in the last book".

Plenty of tech porn, particularly the Cormorant UAV, and Carlson remembers that he's not writing in the 1980s or 1990s; this is very much a post-Cold-War book, where the speed with which information is learned and passed around can be more important than the speed of a boat.

For me, not quite as good as the first two, but certainly still enjoyable.

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See also:
Cold Choices, Larry Bond and Chris Carlson

Previous in series: Cold Choices | Series: Jerry Mitchell | Next in series: Shattered Trident

  1. Posted by Phil Masters at 08:22am on 16 April 2014

    Nitpick time; if they're Iranians, they're probably not Arabs...

  2. Posted by RogerBW at 08:27am on 16 April 2014

    Yeah, sorry, I do know better. Let's say "when he tries to write Muslims"; I don't know enough of the cultural differences to say whether he gets that particular distinction right.

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