Another Review at MyShelf.Com

Rules of Engagement
WMD # 3
BY David Bruns & J. R. Olson

St. Martin’s Press
June 25, 2019/ ISBN 9781250200310
Mystery / Thriller

Reviewed by Elise Cooper 

Rules of Engagement by David Bruns and J. R. Olson brings to the forefront the real threat of cyber warfare in this military thriller. Both authors use their past experiences as naval officers to bring a wealth of accuracy and realism to the story, which only serves to heighten its authenticity. Bruns is a former submarine officer who left the business world behind to write sci-fi novels Olson spent more than 20 years in the Navy, retiring as a commander, and now teaches college courses in Intelligence/Counter-Terrorism.

This tale of clear and present danger forewarns how cyberwarfare is the next battleground that can play out on the world stage. Although some military thrillers can sometimes be bogged down in the details, this one has just the right balance between information given, plot development, and action.

The authors noted, “There is a certain level of expectation from the reader that they will get a plausible explanation. We wanted to make it realistic and interesting without bogging it down in the details. I have the benefit of a son who is a computer science major, so I can run by him bits of information. We did not want to write a Skynet book like Terminator that takes over the world. The threat we wrote about is man-made. The ability for computers to make decisions is far greater than any human being. In the future, this whole cyber arena may be computers fighting other computers. Although we made up “Happy Panda” and “Trident,” we wanted to make sure that we created realistic systems with plausible vehicles.”

As in real life, Russia is in the midst of the trouble making. A criminal enterprise known as Bratva is losing money on its arms dealing business, so its leadership hires a North Korean go between to create havoc. Rafiq Roshed, one of the world’s most wanted cyber terrorists, now residing in North Korea, is enlisted to pit China, Japan, and America. The nations with the three most powerful navies, on a collision course for World War III. He inserts a computer virus into a country's command system to gain control and has it begin to learn how to carry on its warfare. First penetrating the Chinese, he has their war machine launch a series of attacks on the U.S. Pacific forces. As China and Japan are losing control of their military, the U.S. is also in danger of doing the same. Casualties are mounting, and an apocalypse is looming large. The only way to stop this disaster from creating further trouble is to stop it at its source.

This plot driven military thriller does not have a single hero but realistically shows how a team working together can complete the mission. Midshipmen Michael Goodwin, Janet Everett, and Andrea Ramirez are asked to find and eliminate the source before it is too late. Working collectively, they must connect the dots to find and destroy the deadly virus and its handler, Roshed.

The authors felt they wanted to write “a book identifying and developing a story around the threats of the 21stCentury. We are hoping to take a threat not talked about publicly and dial it up to an ’11.’ We were driven to write about cyber security. The Naval Academy has a new facility called Hopper Hall that houses the cyber security program. The midshipmen majoring in it will be able to study it from a national security perspective. The heroes of our story are the team of three midshipmen.”

Readers are left with an unsettling feeling after reading this story. It heightens a frightening wake-up call. Fans of military thrillers will delve into the intrigue and heart pounding action of this novel. It has plenty of clever twists, strategic moves, and high stakes.


Reviewed 2019