“Tipping Point: The War With China – The First Salvo”

David Poyer

The good news is that this is another Dan Lenson book and Poyer’s protagonist remains believable, imperfect, and introspective; those are all uncommon traits among military thriller genre heroes. The not-so-good news is that “Tipping Point” ends almost randomly. The tortured subtitle hints that this is the beginning of a new story arc. Leaving plot threads open as a setup for future books is fine, but I prefer series books to have an identifiable beginning and end.

“The Towers”

David Poyer

Poyer puts his hero Dan Lenson in the Pentagon on 9/11 and Lenson’s wife in the World Trade Center. Afterwards Lenson and his wife are both caught up in the country’s response. Like the other books in the series, it’s above average modern military fiction, but merging the Lensons’ fictional timeline into real world events feels a little forced.

“The Crisis”

David Poyer

Poyer shows his versatility in this book of the Dan Lenson series. Its predecessor was a solid techno-thriller but this is more of a geo-political novel about a fictional African nation (think Yemen) on the verge of becoming a failed state. Lenson takes back seat to several other characters’ – both American and African – stories. The variety of characters and complexity of the plot makes it stand out from other novels in the modern military fiction genre.

“Korea Strait”

David Poyer

I enjoy Poyer’s “Tales of the Modern Navy” series because, unlike most military fiction, it’s not jingoistic. However, this one, unlike thelast one, is only a fair seagoing adventure. Poyer’s main character (Dan Lenson) is detached to the Korean navy as a wargame evaluator, there’s bad weather, and the North Koreans get aggressive. There’s nothing wrong with the book, it just isn’t terribly exciting.

“The Threat”

David Poyer

It’s remarkable for any series, especially one from the ranks of genre military thrillers, to maintain its originality. Too often the author of this type of book paints himself into a corner like Tom Clancy, who has gone so far into his alternate history that he may never emerge, or becomes a Rush Limbaugh style ranter like Dan Brown. Happily Poyer’s “Tales of the Modern Navy” (AKA the Dan Lenson series) continues to deliver character development and human interest along with the action.

Poyer’s latest follows “The Command”. Lenson has taken a White House job and is being set up as the Oswald in an assassination plot. The intended target is an anti-military philandering liberal president. In the military thriller genre, such a character normally plays the role of villain. This convention is turned upside down in “The Threat” but to go on would spoil the plot so I’ll say no more except to quote these pointed lines from the novel:

He thought of what Washington, and America, had been when he was young, and of how much had changed. From protest to conformity. From openness to secrecy. From confidence to carefully inculcated fear.

Sometimes he thought the dream of democracy might be ending. As it had for Rome long before. Bringing a new imperial age. Dictatorship. Slavery. And unending war.

If the choice was empire, then the threat was clear. The threat would be America herself – her power, her violence, her blind, crusading arrogance.

“The Command”

David Poyer

Unlike so many writers of military fiction, David Poyer manages to have a continuing character – Dan Lenson – who changes and grows from book to book. That, and the air of authenticity that Poyer generates (thanks to his own years in the navy), distinguishes the Lenson books from the likes of Dan Brown and Tom Clancy.

This book finds Lenson dealing with a divided crew learning to cope with gender integration aboard a destroyer on a Read Sea deployment. Interesting characters and situations combined with a gripping climax involving a terrorist nuclear device make this one stand out from the pack.