So, it took me a while to get through this one (sorry, J.T.!). J.T. Patten did warn me that he considered the second novel, Primed Charge, to be much better written. While I can see why, this book is no slouch on its own. Sean Havens is a spook’s spook. He doesn’t have a formal cover; he doesn’t even directly work for any agency. He’s a contractor, who goes to various countries as a corporate drone of some kind, blends in, learns the human terrain, and then manipulates it to a desired outcome. Somewhere nearby, people die, and he goes home to his family, completely unconnected. Except that, despite his paranoia (which is impressive, by the way), there are still people who know who he is. And they know where his family is. That leads to a personal tragedy that draws Havens into something far darker than anything he’s been involved in yet (and he’s been hip-deep in some pretty dark stuff, as you discover as the book goes on).
I cannot let 9/11 go by unremarked. It is the single event that defined my adult life. While I knew no one who died that day, much of my life after was dedicated to the pursuit of those 19 hijackers’ fellow fanatics, and I have buried friends in the course of that war. It is a war that began long before any of us were born, and will likely continue. It is unpopular to say that there is a war between Islam and the West. Islam, truly devoted Islam, has been at war with all and sundry for 1300 years. Are many Muslims not at war? Of course. Far more Muslims have died to crush ISIS than Americans. But the historical record remains. Even when we are at peace, sooner or later, that peace will end. The hijackers did not choose September the 11th at random. It was not a date that simply came up in the course of planning and logistics. Like all fanatics, they sought to make a deeper statement in their act of mass murder. September 11 was the day before the anniversary of the Battle of Vienna. In 1683, the Ottoman Empire, then the Muslim Caliphate
This post is a bit of an apology, truth be told. I reviewed this book a few years ago, on the now-defunct “Hot Extract.” Overall, I found the book to be a decent shooter thriller, and something of a wish-fulfillment fantasy for a lot of shooters who have been in the sandbox and the rock-pile, chasing ghosts and being yanked back by the choke-chain by higher whenever it seemed like they might get somewhere to the shooters and go too far to higher.
Imagine Die Hard, if John McClane had been a retired Special Operations soldier instead of an off-duty cop. That’s pretty much the scenario that Steven Hildreth presents in The Sovereigns, albeit with a bit more going on behind the scenes. It is an alternate 2005. An anarchist/sovereign citizen terrorist group calling itself The Liberty Brigade, made up of a few true believers and a few more violent sociopaths who find the idea of revolution fits right in with their particular idea of fun, has seized the Saguaro Towers, a Carlton Hotel, in Tucson. They have struck fast and hard. Security is dead, the hotel’s guests are held hostage, and they have the situation under control. Their demands hit all the high points of the isolationist and conspiracy theorist narrative. They are also calculated so that the government can never agree to them.
I was in USMC recruit training the day Coalition Forces crossed the line of departure into Iraq. I was still there — almost ready to graduate the day that “major combat operations” came to an end. A year-and-a-half later, as a newly minted Recon Marine I deployed to Iraq for the first time. Within two weeks of our arrival in-country, the first shots had been exchanged between the insurgents and Marines of 1st Recon Bn. It didn’t slow down much for the rest of the deployment. A lot of words have been written, spoken or shouted about the war, most of them coming from people who were never there — by individuals who never experienced the dust, the heat, the threat, or the frustration. Some of us have spoken up and voiced our stories, but the vast majority of what is said is from those with no experience; from those who presume to know all there is to know. I am not here to tell my story; there is very little about it that is much different from the stories told by the thousands of other soldiers and Marines who saw combat in Mesopotamia. Instead, I am going to look at