RogerBW's Blog

Viper Strike, Keith Douglass 08 August 2016

1991 military fiction; second in the Carrier series. A complex plot sees Burmese, Thai and Chinese renegades orchestrating a breakup of SEATO for purposes unclear at first. Carrier Battle Group 14 is going to get caught in the middle.

This book is where things get cunning. There's plenty of false-flag provocation, kidnapping of sailors on liberty in Bangkok, and a complex plan to take the carrier out of action before anyone even knows a shooting war has started.

Characterisation is still minimal, but the players are slightly better developed than before; Magruder, now labouring under the label of "hero" after his actions in the last book, gets involved with Pamela Drake, a TV reporter who's generally anti-military (because The Media Hate Us, or at least so Magruder assumes, not entirely accurately) but open to debate. Cue a tourist-guide infodump about the floating markets of Thonburi, of the sort that's harder to get away with now that we have Wikipedia. Several of Magruder's squadron mates get a bit more detail and development too, particularly "Batman" Wayne who's starting to turn into an approximation of a human being. All of these people have their flaws as well as their strong points, and that's deeper than much mil-fic manages to get.

OK, so the only real reason to read this book is still the air battles, but you're unlikely to find a copy without looking pretty hard so you probably know that already. Within that specific area, Keith delivers, with his genuine gift for writing action scenes.

This is probably the best of the series. Followed by Armageddon Mode.

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