I’ve had people asking about getting my books on audio for several years now. I’ve given it a shot a couple of times, but things haven’t worked out to continue with the ACX Royalty Share arrangement. However, a couple of months ago, I was contacted by Tantor Media, asking if the audio rights to the Maelstrom Rising series were available. Tantor’s not a small company; they’ve got thousands of audiobooks in their catalog. So, I signed on. Escalation is out today. Holding Action is in production, and will be out on the 10th of December. Steve Marvel is narrating, and while I haven’t had a chance to listen to it yet, I’ve communicated with him some, and his attention to detail is admirable, and his rendition of the news stories in the Prologue (in the Sample) is spot on. Meanwhile, I’m hammering away at Crimson Star. It’s being a bit of a bear, but I’m getting a handle on it. Taking the scene back to CONUS presents a whole new set of complications. Preorder and release date are still yet to be determined; I’ve got to get closer to finishing first. Kill or Capture‘s been out for a bit now.
So far, the Maelstrom Rising series has mostly focused on the fact that conventional combat in future war is anything but dead. But there’s an irregular side to it, too, and the future is going to feature as much of the irregular, asymmetric side as the conventional, combined-arms side. There’s an article over on Borderland Beat about just that side of warfare, a side that is becoming increasingly prevalent in the modern world. Future conflicts will mostly be waged by drug cartels, mafia groups, gangs, and terrorists. It is time to rethink our rules of engagement. Wars are on the rebound. There are twice as many civil conflicts today, for example, as there were in 2001. And the number of nonstate armed groups participating in the bloodshed is multiplying. According to the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), roughly half of today’s wars involve between three and nine opposing groups. Just over 20 percent involve more than 10 competing blocs. In a handful, including ongoing conflicts in Libya and Syria, hundreds of armed groups vie for control.
Holding Action is live! Matt Bowen and his team made it out of Slovakia by the skin of their teeth. But the fight’s not over. And there’s no rest for the weary. The European Defense Council, desperate to salvage their dream of a Europe reshaped in their image, threaten invasion of Poland. The Triarii and what is left of American forces in Northern Europe stand by their Polish allies. But they’re outnumbered and outgunned. And they might well be watching the wrong part of the border. The brutal series about the next World War continues in a storm of fire and steel!
“Shit,” Phil whispered. “I knew they had a fucking drone up.” I didn’t answer, but scanned the road carefully. Once again, thanks to the woods, we were far closer than we should have been, but the spotlights weren’t pointed at the woods, not yet, and the rising growl of the helicopter, along with the rumble of the armored cars’ diesels, seemed to have drowned out what little noise we were making. Slowly, carefully, I eased back deeper into the shadows, Phil doing the same. Looking up and down the road, I didn’t see a good spot to cross. The six armored vehicles were spaced out along the road. They were too close to slip through, and too spread out to find a good spot to go around. At least, not with that helicopter closing in. Two klicks of open country separated us from the border at its nearest point, and that would have entailed going through Leuba. As urgent as it was that we get the information back to Poland, we weren’t going to do anyone any good if we went charging out there and got killed or captured. And as confident as I was in my team in combat,
On the ground, at night, Germany didn’t look all that different from Slovakia. The differences lay in details that might not have been all that readily apparent to someone without our recent experience. Aside from a dog barking down by Schönau-Berzdorf, it was deathly quiet. No distant thunder of artillery rumbled. No small arms fire rattled. There weren’t even any aircraft to be heard in the sky. The lights were still on in Görlitz to the north, casting an orange glow against the low clouds overhead. Unlike the all-too common flickering light of burning towns and villages in Slovakia, it was a steady illumination, adding to the ambient light that our AN-PSQ-20 fusion goggles had to work with. It made navigation through the shadows of the German woods quite a bit easier. That same quiet was making me suspicious. The entire landscape around us seemed asleep and dead. Given that every indicator that intelligence had gotten in the last few weeks was pointing to Görlitz being the staging point for a major offensive aimed at Poland, there should have been more activity. Phil Kerr took a knee next to a mostly-bare tree. The fall had been colder than the Poles
Three Weeks Later, And Still Few Answers It has been three weeks since the beginning of the catastrophic blackout that has cut off electrical power to the Pacific Coast, the Southwest, much of the Southeast, and the Eastern Seaboard. Efforts to restore the grid in effected areas have largely met with failure, either due to technical problems or attacks by gangs. This seems to have bolstered theories that the blackout was caused by a terrorist attack. Authorities that this reporter was able to reach have not endorsed this view, however, insisting that there is no solid evidence of such an attack. Nor have the rash of infrastructure attacks been linked by any such authorities. The official, who preferred to remain anonymous, dismissed such links as “conspiracy theories.”
As I’ve written elsewhere, setting a story in the near future sometimes requires some attempt at clairvoyance. Some of the weapons systems that will be used in a future war are still in development. Some might not exist yet, but getting too crazy sci-fi could derail things, so I’ve got to strike a balance. One of those systems that I introduce in Escalation is the M5 Powell Infantry Fighting Vehicle. This is set up as the replacement for the M2 Bradley IFV, which has been in service since 1981. Now, there is an M2 replacement in the works. The Army calls it the Next Generation Combat Vehicle program, and the Request For Proposals went out in March of this year. Right at the moment, there are three major contenders, the BAE Systems CV90 Mk IV, the Rheinmetall and Raytheon Lynx IFV, and the General Dynamics Griffin III.
The Maelstrom Rising series already features some “cutting-edge” tech. Some of that tech has already been fielded; some of it is in development. One of these pieces of tech are “kamikaze drones,” which get employed to devastating effect in Escalation. A couple of my readers have commented on how scary they are. But they’re real, and we’re going to see more of them in the years to come. (Side note: While tech will feature in the Maelstrom Rising series, it will never be depicted as the panacea that you might find in a lot of ’90s techno-thrillers. Anyone who has read my stuff before should already be aware of that. High tech complicates logistics, and logistics are already hampering everybody’s war effort in Maelstrom Rising.) These kamikaze drones have been in development for some time. The US and Israel appear to have been the primary developers. The US has begun fielding the Switchblade drone several years ago.
The thunderous report of the 7.62 echoed across the hills around the town, shattering the early morning calm. The dark-clad man with the FAMAS bullpup staggered, staring down at the widening dark stain on his chest for a brief fraction of a second before he crumpled, crashing to the deck with a thump and a muffled clatter as he landed on top of his rifle…
Recruited in secret, trained and equipped in secret (there was plenty of money for the Corps’ equipment; it was mostly in “black” accounts and various other secret and officially illegal shelters and revenue streams), the European Defense Corps was built on the bones of the old Euro Corps and trained and commanded by French and German veterans of Afghanistan, Mali, and the Balkans. Impressed and indoctrinated heavily with the mission of a united Europe, and the evils of nationalism and traditionalism, the young men who were recruited, many of them foreigners, were subjected to a harsh training regimen, rivalling that of the French Foreign Legion