Shattered Trident by Larry Bond is a submarine-centered, military thriller set in the not-too-distant future (available May 7, 2013).
China is the new Russia, a writer’s go-to country for worldwide threats. Larry Bond’s latest SUBNOV, Shattered Trident, highlights this status with an intriguing, plausible, premise: the Chinese take over various long-disputed Spratly Islands in the South China Sea to secure their vast oil reserves and rich fishing grounds, and control all-important shipping lanes.
The year is 2016. China’s economy appears healthy, yet party leaders cannot keep its significant flaws hidden for long while their economy slows. The Trident Operation also signals their navy’s transformation from a coastline defense fleet to a true blue-water power in the Asian Pacific.
Their first act of aggression is to torpedo a tanker that supposedly carries coal bound for Japan. The hit generates a massive explosion. Witnessing the attack is the American sub North Dakota commanded by Jerry Mitchell, who recognizes an act of war though he has no idea who the players are. A respected blogger on maritime issues from Nova Scotia catches wind of the event and calls on his readers to share what they might know about the deliberate sinking.
The unmarked tanker, bound with munitions to defend their post in the Spratly Islands, belongs to Vietnam. Its leaders confer with Komamura, a Japanese economist who authored a prescient tome about the Chinese offensive. He outlines the need for an alliance of South and East China Sea nations and advises that the only effective strategy to stop the Chinese will be to cut off their oil—sink tankers, embargo ports, incite recession. The Vietnamese sign on, joined by U.S. allies Japan and South Korea to create the secret Littoral Alliance.
Meanwhile, news of the tanker explosion hits CNN and the Chinese admit to the sinking. They are growing desperate as the number of oil tankers heading for Chinese ports being sunk by as-yet unidentified attackers rapidly mounts. U.S. government theories about the conflict are corroborated and options for addressing it grow complicated when a Russian friend of Mitchell’s confirms the existence of the still-secret Alliance. The U.S. is not China’s adversary here, a welcome plot twist that first plays out when Mitchell encounters a Vietnamese sub setting up to ambush a Chinese one, and he uses clever tactics to derail the attack.
The dicey position of the U.S. is well played, the stakes all too easy to understand. The troubles are heightened when Indonesia, the Philippines, India, and later Taiwan join the Alliance and land war breaks out. Timely aspects of economics, responsibilities to allies, and the changing status of Pacific Rim nations are all employed to advantage in this tale. Here, the Japanese Ambassador, Urahara speaks with U.S. President Myles:
The ambassador continued, “In discussions with other alliance members, the Japanese Foreign Ministry has observed the very prevalent opinion that the United States is attempting to preserve the status quo, that is, a Pacific dominated by American military power. Japan recognizes that for decades, she has grown and flourished under such an arrangement. But would your country have stood against Chinese ambitions in the South China Sea?”
“Because Japan and America’s other allies did not consult with us first,” Myles answered sharply, “that specific question can never be answered.”
“You would have pressured us to wait, to give diplomacy a chance, to confront China with what we had learned. It was too late for that. There was no time.”
“So, Japan believed that the U.S. would not stand with her,” Myles stated flatly.
“Risk open war with another nuclear power when your vital interests were not threatened? Over ‘disputed territories’?” Urahara almost spat the words out.
This SUBNOV will hold undeniable appeal for fans, though the acronym-rich prose might prove a challenge to the casual reader. Shattered Trident will reward readers of all stripes, however, with its clever and inventive tale. Its climax is genuinely shocking.
While the book’s title steals some of the suspense, and several underdeveloped trajectories such as cyber attacks lie beyond the effective scope of the novel, this is a thought-provoking book about the varied and exponential impacts of a modern naval war.
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Kate Lincoln writes crime fiction informed by her years in clinical medicine and as a homeopath and EMT, most of which is set in New Jersey horse country called the Somerset Hills.
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