RATS is a military-industrial thriller and mystery set in present-day Alaska, Washington, China, and Vietnam. The book opens with a nameless character astride a motorcycle hurling self-propelled time-bombs at the Alaskan pipeline; the story becomes more interesting from there. As a small boy, a young US Army General, his sniper girlfriend, and the mysterious motorcyclist react to the destruction of the pipeline, their stories intertwine in a tale of murder, intrigue, corruption, and greed.
RATS is, first and foremost, a fun read. The novel is exciting and fast-paced, the mystery of the motorcyclist is compelling, the side characters are interesting, and the main characters invite further reading. As a military-industrial novel, the technical details – which are gracefully presented in a way that is neither overbearing nor showy – that form important elements to the mystery are intriguing and well-researched. The military operations, too – especially the various scenes where characters ride motorcycles and other vehicles – are dramatic, vivid, evocative, and perfectly detailed. As a thriller, mystery, and military-industrial adventure story, RATS succeeds thoroughly.
Based on the excellence of the adventurous, mysterious, and technical aspects of the novel, it is somewhat strange, however, to find characters behaving the way they do in the text. The female lead character is distinguished primarily, in the first half of the book at least, by her sex appeal – not only in the male characters’ reaction to her, but in her own reflections upon her relationships with others. As a result, her internal dialogue and backstory seemed somewhat under-developed.
The depiction of military command structure, however, was far more suspect – from a general, of any age, conducting solo field operations to the immense free-time and personal liberty enjoyed by supposedly active-duty soldiers, there were a number of elements in RATS that interfered with the suspension of disbelief; it was as if the technical details of the book were researched thoroughly, but the human attitudes and demeanor of the characters was not as thoroughly examined. The military personnel act more like corporate socialites than trained soldiers, and the non-military personnel inexplicably have the physical and mental capacities of professional soldiers, despite their lack of training.
That said, RATS succeeds far more than it fails – it is a fun romp-and-motorcycle-ride through intrigue, explosions, action, betrayal, politics, and victory. The journalists’ story, especially, is an excellent, humorous counterpoint to the military action of the rest of the book. Non-military readers will thoroughly enjoy it, and military readers will too (despite, perhaps, a number of times when they will roll their eyes).
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|Mystery, Crime, Thriller