Dale Brown has made a name for himself in the military genre, and deservedly so. In Shadow Command he renews
the Dreamland series and picks up where he left off in Strike Force. This is the latest chapter in the story
of General Patrick McLanahan, a legendary American war hero who commands the Air Battle Force. McLanahan’s unit has
grown into an unprecedented pre-emptive strike force capable of thwarting threats across the globe within hours via
its super-sophisticated and ever-feared Black Stallion space planes and its high-tech "mother ship," Armstrong Space
Station. It’s McLanahan who has made the US the world’s only space superpower, and this has drawn heavy criticism
from America’s rivals in the international crowd.
The Iranian Revolution continues with both the US and Russia exerting their respective influences, albeit in
different directions. McLanahan is keeping a close eye on would-be insurgents from Armstrong station and what
ensues is a series of incidents which, due to the sort of limited information considered suitable to be provided
to the public, make General McLanahan’s unit appear as an overly aggressive liability and McLanahan himself seem
like a loose cannon. This is troubling the new US president, a man who is more concerned with pleasing the
international community and finding his next one night stand than protecting his own people. And so is much less
supportive of the Air Battle Force than his predecessor. In his eagerness to be liked by the world, the President
is easily swayed by the overbearing demands of a beguiling Russian leader and pulls back the reins of General
McLanahan’s elite military unit.
The intensity begins to boil when the Russians use a secret and powerful weapon in an unprovoked attack against
the US and McLanahan’s unit. But that’s not how the US President sees it. In a disgusting display of blind
internationalism, the Commander-in-Chief takes the word of the Russian president over that of one of his top
generals. Refusing to allow the Russians to get away with such aggression, McLanahan takes his own action while
commanding from Armstrong station and is subsequently branded a vigilante. With two world superpowers on the hunt,
McLanahan is determined to defend his troops and protect his country no matter who may stand in the way.
First, I could have done without the sex scenes, and, yes, there were more than one. They simply weren’t
necessary and were beneath the storyline. Perhaps they would fit well in another plot and another genre, but here
they leave the reader with a "what was that?" kind of question. I’m no prude, but these scenes weren’t flattering
for a writer of Brown’s talent. For a brief moment, he may have misjudged his audience. I think even the least
prudish of readers would agree.
With that being said, there were moments of brilliance here. An early dog fight between Russian MiGs and a Black
Stallion was a mouth-watering page turner, reminding any fan of why they love to read Dale Brown. I would have liked
to see more moments like these. It would have helped overcome the mud bogs which seemed to appear during the
storyline. Don’t get me wrong. Overall I would say I liked it more than not - it’s hard not to like Dale Brown -
but reading this one just took a little too much effort. That’s not supposed to happen when you love military
fiction as much as I do.
It helps to know the background of the main characters, so reading Strike Force first is a near-necessity.
At the same time, those who read both will likely agree that Strike Force outdistanced its sequel. But let’s
not get too negative. Brown is still a master in his genre and Shadow Command is still a reflection of his
talent, but he has done better. I am still a big fan and eagerly await his next novel.