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Shadow Command
Patrick McLanahan Book 14

by Dale Brown

      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.

The Book

William Morrow
May 13, 2008
0061173118 / 978-0061173110
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The Reviewer

John Washburn
Reviewed 2008
NOTE: Reviewer John Washburn is the author of When Evil Prospers.
© 2008