Monday, November 14, 2016
Onslaught, by David Poyer
David Poyer's publisher sent me a proof copy of this book in hopes I would comment on it. I was a little hesitant since it is a "big war" story, and such books tend to be a bit on the fantastic side, and their authors often seem to be motivated by a smug confidence that they know better than their readers how things really work. I very quickly became impressed with David Poyer's most recent naval adventure novel. Not necessarily because he knows more about the modern navy than I do, there's no doubt about that, but more because he has got a real talent for taking a complicated situation and showing how many different people are affected by the big events. Poyer has written fifteen novels about a US naval officer named Dan Lenson and shown his hero dealing with a lot of different crises. In Onslaught, Lenson is in command of a naval squadron in the East China Sea just as the leader of communist China decides to launch a new militaristic dynasty by annexing Taiwan, Okinawa and a slew of other small but strategic islands. The US is caught flatfooted and Lenson has to desperately put together a response to Chinese aggression without clear direction from the political leadershib or adequate resources, such as fuel and ammunition. There's plenty of story in just this scenario, but Poyer doesn't stop there. He uses other characters very deftly to fill out the picture. We see Washington through the eyes of Lenson's wife, a defense expert who is also running for Congress; the complexities of shipboard life by following an NCIS investigator trying to track down a rapist; the extreme dangers of a career in the Navy SEALS and the high price of failure. Poyer is a good storyteller, with a talent for explaining weapons systems, international politics and a variety of characters. I got hooked and read it at top speed.