“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.

“Black Storm”

David Poyer

This is another story about navel officer Dan Lenson. Poyer’s earlier novels about Lensen had an aura of authenticity, but this is just another special ops in the Gulf War tale. Poyer puts Lenson in a group of Marines along with a crazy killer SAS officer and a female biological warfare doctor. They’re given the job of finding an unknown weapon of mass destruction in the heart of Baghdad. All the hackneyed Gulf War novel plot elements are present: team discovered by wandering child shepherd, characters tortured by mustached Iraqis, and so on.

It’s not a bad story in itself, and the team’s passage through the Baghdad sewers is suspenseful, but compared to the earlier books about Lenson, it’s a disappointment Poyer was just going through the motions when he wrote this one.