Shadows of Steel

Title:                      Shadows of Steel

Author:                  Dale Brown

Brown, Dale (1996). Shadows of Steel. New York: G.P. Putnam Sons.

LCCN:    96000743

PS3552.R68543 S48 1996


Date Updated:  June 23, 2015


Gulf War II, albeit without the Coalition and with latter-day Persia as the foe, in this red-meat technothriller from old pro Brown (Storming Heaven, 1994, etc.). Three years short of a new millennium, Iran is rattling space- age sabers in an effort to gain dominion over the Strait of Hormuz, a choke point in the world’s oil-supply line. At odds both with Arab neighbors allied to the US and with the Great Satan itself, the Islamic republic is armed, dangerous, and under the military command of a rash ultranationalist: General Hesarak al-Kan Buzhazi. Hostilities begin when Iran sinks an American spy vessel. In assessing response options, the new US president is all too aware that budget cuts and ill-advised peacekeeping missions have greatly weakened America’s armed forces. Accordingly, the Chief Executive calls in the Intelligence Support Agency, a supersecret arm of the CIA. With a blank check from the White House, ISA quickly goes operational with a B-2A Stealth bomber. Under the expert guidance of Patrick McLanahan (an ex-USAF weapons officer), the all but undetectable aircraft and its on-board array of ordnance and electronic countermeasures raise merry (if deniable) hell with the Mideastern theocracy’s defenses. Although down, Iran (which has concluded a mutual-assistance pact with Red China) is not out, and Buzhazi’s air arm nearly figures out a way to shoot the lone shadow of steel from the sky. The B-2A’s can-do crew rises to the occasion, however, and Tehran’s officer corps pays a stiff price for its extremism. While the Yanks believe themselves clear victors at the close, there’s reason to believe they may have to take on the PRC and its nukes in the next round. State-of-the-art action in the air, on land, and at sea from a master of the future-shock game.

Finished reading: 24 Mar 2014


Title:                  Icon

Author:                Frederick Forsyth

Forsyth, Frederick (1996). Icon. New York: Bantam Books

LCCN:    96023434

PR6056.O699 I28 1996


Date Updated:  April 7, 2015


An American spy who has come in from the cold helps save turn-of-the-century Russia from its own worst self in an absorbingly resonant thriller from Forsyth (The Fist of God, 1994, etc.), who once again proves himself a master of the game of blending historical fact with fictive fancy. During the hard winter of 1999, Russia (whose economy has been crippled by corruption, organized crime, and inflation) reaches the brink of collapse when its president suddenly dies in office. A new chief executive must be chosen within 90 days, and the world’s smart money is on Igor Komarov, the charismatic chairman of a right-wing political party known as the Union of Patriotic Forces (UPF).

Something more than a reactionary nationalist, Komarov has unwisely committed his fascist and racist philosophy to paper. A copy of this appalling document (known as the Black Manifesto) falls into the hands of British intelligence and comes to the attention of Sir Nigel Irvine, retired head of the SIS. Since neither London nor Washington will take action, the knight-errant secures help from a sub-rosa group of elder statesmen to frustrate the would-be dictator’s terrifying aspirations. His main man in this venture is Jason Monk, a former CIA officer, who had quit the agency after his Moscow operatives were betrayed by Aldrich Ames. Infiltrated into Moscow, Monk (who speaks Russian like a native) plays the centerpiece role in a dramatic scheme to discredit Komarov and rescue Russia from anarchy by establishing a constitutional monarchy with a Romanov heir on the throne.

With assistance from a Chechen Mafia chieftain whose life he once saved, the elusive operative enlists the aid of bankers, upright police commanders, journalists, TV executives, the military, and other oddly coupled allies, including the Orthodox Church’s patriarch, in halting the UPF’s electoral juggernaut. His efforts are successful enough for the desperate Komarov to attempt a New Year’s Day coup.

The version I read was in Reader’s Digest Condensed Books (1997, Vol. 229, #1, pp. 297-475).

Ice Station Zebra

Title:                      Ice Station Zebra

Author:                  Alistair MacLean

MacLean, Alistair (1960, 1967). Ice Station Zebra. London:Collins

LCCN:       63006126

PZ4.M1626 Ic

Date Posted:      June 23, 2015

This is early MacLean and one of his better books, in my opinion. I also enjoyed the movie but the “expert” reviews tore it apart, notably Rogers and Ebert. You can’t judge a book by its movie. I liked them both, and, well Excuse me!

Ice Station Zebra, an arctic meteorological station, located on the ever drifting pack ice of the high Arctic, has been destroyed by an equipment fire. The Dolphin, an American nuclear submarine, is about to set sail on a dangerous high speed mission under the polar ice cap to rescue the badly injured team. But, just as one would suspect from a cold war thriller, all is not as it seems. Ice Station Zebra is a good deal more than just a scientific meteorological station. The scientific team is not just a collection of scientists. One of them is a ruthless killer for which the achievement of his mysterious secret mission against the Americans and the Brits may even require the cold-blooded execution of the entire crew of the Dolphin. Nor is Doctor Carpenter, a British volunteer member of the Dolphin’s crew ostensibly along to seek out his brother who was part of Ice Station Zebra’s stricken team, precisely what he shows to the world.

As thrillers go, Ice Station Zebra is certainly enjoyable but it’s a long, long way from what most readers would label a compelling page turner. It’s got all the requisite ingredients to be sure—murder, sabotage, hidden identities, spies, accidents, cliff-hangers—but I think it could have been so much more. The parts of the story that took place inside the submarine were interesting and, at times, even exciting. But the action never reached the breathless urgent pace that was more recently achieved in other submarine thrillers such as The Hunt for Red October or Larry Bond’s Dangerous Ground. The Arctic itself as an environment which can be stunning in its breathtaking beauty and is always fraught with danger and the potential for deadly accidents was never truly exploited as a part of the story to anywhere near the extent that it might have been.

Ice Station Zebra is an enjoyable change of pace and nice easy brain candy reading that won’t tax the little grey cells. It just won’t make anyone’s top ten list of the best all-time spy vs spy thrillers! Since most of my reading is done when I go to bed (already worn out and yawning) it satisfied, but didn’t keep me awake.