RogerBW's Blog

Carrier, Keith Douglass 04 August 2016

1991 military fiction; first in the Carrier series. An American intelligence ship and her crew vanish on the high seas; the North Koreans admit nothing. Carrier Battle Group 14 is sent in to get them out.

It's pretty straightforward military fiction, in fact, but those of us who first met Bill Keith's work through the early Battletech novels will expect just a little more – and it's here. This isn't a simple set of wargaming scenarios, but a sequence of provocations and escalations, intelligence gathering and analysis, each clash following logically from the one before, with reasonably smart commanders on both sides. And of course there are the extra complications and rolls of the dice that accompany any real operation.

Characters, admittedly, are pretty thin, but better than some. "Tombstone" Magruder, the aviator who's the viewpoint for the whole series, has suffered by having an admiral as an uncle: when he does well and gets promoted, people assume it's his uncle's influence, and when he does badly that just goes to prove he didn't earn his position. Yeah, OK, he's also kind of whiny at times, but he's young.

The technical material is decent, and these people are human enough to engage my interest. The North Korean prison guards fall readily into stereotype, but we mostly see them through the prisoners' eyes; a couple of other enemy soldiers are better-developed. The clash is largely one of nifty kit versus huge numbers, and of course carefully set up to be doubtful but winnable, but this works.

It's no masterpiece, certainly, but it gets the job done better than a fair bit of the military fiction I've read. Followed by Viper Strike.

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