(This is the second installation of my Memorial Day weekend binge of reviews of books written by veterans of the American armed forces and featuring the United States Armed Forces in action. Mr. Kennedy is a former Naval Aviator. He flew the A-6E Intruder bomber off of carriers as well as the EP-3E reconaissance aircraft. He flew during the Kosovo conflict and during Desert Shield and Storm. He retired after 20 years as a Commander. Oh, and yes it's more Speculative Fiction than Science Fiction, but who gives a rip? It's a good book.)
You know, it's hard to say this, but I kind of wish this book hadn't been written by a veteran. Don't get me wrong, Chris Kennedy is a good author and Red Tide: The Chinese Invasion of Seattle is a damn find book. It's just that when I read some of what's here (I'll explain in a bit) I'd prefer to believe that the author doesn't have a clue. I'd really like to think that it can't actually happen. When it's written by someone who has been there/done that, it's a bit worrisome on a real world level. I mean, when someone points out holes like this in our national defense I want to be able to reject what they're saying. I can't really do that when they're in a position to know what they're talking about.
Having said that, I really did enjoy this story. It's action packed and has believable characters behaving in a believable manner. I don't remember who it was, but someone posted a question on Facebook the other day inquiring as to whether or not you have to like the characters in a book to make it entertaining. My response was that a character doesn't have to be _likeable_ to be entertaining but I do have to have a rooting interest in the book. Red Tide delivers precisely that. A lot of what happens in the book comes down to people not doing their jobs right. I don't like people who don't do their jobs right. Granted, they don't really have advanced notice that they're not doing their jobs right, but when you're dealing with the national defense not knowing is no excuse. Then again, I do have a rooting interest. I'm an American. I root for the home team.
This is the first book in (I believe) a duology and I've already bought the second one. It's that good. I had to. I couldn't stop myself. Honestly, I should've waited a week because I had just spent a bunch of loot on my munchkins but it wasn't going to happen. *SIGH* I wish I could say it was the first time I spent money on a book that I shouldn't have. I love it.
Red Tide is, as advertised, about a Chinese invasion of Seattle as a distraction for their main thrust into Taiwan. I don't think it's too much of a spoiler to say that the US starts this fight off in a bad way. I don't want to give up too much, but yeah, things don't look good for my boys. That's putting it mildly.
The villains in Red Tide are actually pretty villainous while not being the type that cause unbridled hatred. They're Chinese diplomats and soldiers simply doing their jobs. Seriously. They're not the people making the decisions. They're the people following the orders. And follow the orders they do. If they might use a wee bit of subterfuge, well it is a war. That's how things go. If Sun Tzu recommended it, it probably makes sense to use it. I mean, not only is he still studied by every military on the planet, but he was actually Chinese. I get why they do what they do. I'd do the same thing in their situation.
I really like that fact. Kennedy's villains are not just cardboard cut-outs. I mean, I loved Battle: Los Angeles but the people who complained that we didn't know a lot about the aliens weren't wrong. Kennedy gets something I think a lot of authors miss: Everyone is the hero of their own story. The Chinese people in Red Tide aren't dastardly villains cackling in their lairs like Cobra Commander in a bad episode of GI Joe. They have planned well. They follow the plan well. They don't see themselves as bad people. They believe they're doing the right thing. The Americans may disagree, but the Chinese are not interested in the opinions of the Americans.
It's worth mentioning that the Chinese are as humane as they can be. I mean, it's war and people die. The fact remains that they only kill when they have to and several of the steps they take are clearly meant to avoid kill people unnecessarily. These are reasoning human beings who do what they need to do but don't do more than that. I've never met Kennedy personally but he seems to be a warrior with a respect for other warriors. I like that.
My one bitch about Red Tide is that sometimes I felt a bit like I was being talked down to. Kennedy was obviously aware of the fact that he is a Naval Aviator writing for a primarily civilian audience. Sometimes he gives a bit more of an explanation of various terms than I really feel is necessary. Maybe I'm not the best judge of this, I've read military fiction of one type or another for a few decades now and I've studied military history. Someone was actually goofy enough to give me a history degree after I wrote long papers about the security of the Manhattan Project and the involvement of the Heer (the German Army) in the Holocaust so I probably have a better understanding than most. The fact remains that there were times when I felt like I was being talked down to. If I had more time I'd try to find someone who hadn't done all the reading I have and see if they felt the same way.
Other than that though, this is a really strong story. Kennedy's military experience really shines through. There are a couple of aerial combat sequences that just work, and I can easily see why. Kennedy also seems to have a solid grasp of planning and executing an operation from an officer's point of view. It sometimes irks me that the officer is almost always the star of the story, but this time it makes sense. Kennedy himself is an officer so of course that's how he's going to write his books. And maybe I should just stop whining because the other two books I reviewed this weekend centered around and enlisted man and a mustang.
Bottom Line: 4.75 out of 5 AMRAAMs
Red Tide: The Chinese Invasion of Seattle
Self Published, 2015
Red Tide: The Chinese Invasion of Seattle is available for purchase at the following link: