Protect And Defend
Protect and Defend by Eric Harry is a very good post-1991 technothriller, albeit one with the issues of the genre. I had mixed feelings about Harry’s Arc Light when I reviewed it here, but enjoy this newer book more.
There’s viewpoint hopping, assassination conspiracies, and crisis overload. But there’s also a very novel setting that the ridiculous plot is used to set up-an old-style Chinese army invading the Russian Far East.
The gritty infantry combat means the rivet counting is very limited, certainly in comparison with Arc Light. When infodumps happen, they’re generally more relevant.
The setup involves an “Anarchist” takeover of Russia and mass assassination of world leaders that leads to an UN force in eastern Siberia, followed by a large Chinese invasion. Ok.
Then when the action starts, both sides have their technology downplayed. China should be several years into its boom-fueled military modernization, yet for the most part it’s treated like a Korean War-era infantry fieldcraft army. The UN, facing such an army, should leverage every technological advantage, but that’s not the focus.
In literary terms this is a good thing (see below), but I still raised an eyebrow more than once at this.
Protect and Defend keeps many of the some problems as Arc Light. The tinny, clunky politics get in the way too often. Some of the scenes are a little superfluous, with me thinking “is it really important to show basic training so many times?”.
When it gets to the action, though, it works considerably better. It’s down and dirty infantry combat that, however potentially anachronistic, serves as a nice contrast from the stereotypical technothriller and shows Harry’s resisting the temptation of making it (as Arc Light was) a technological knockout punch . The infantry fighting does get a little too repetitive by the end and the ending itself is kind of abrupt, but those aren’t deal-breakers by any means.
The Only Score That Really Matters
Protect and Defend is one of the better post-1991 military thrillers, and I liked it considerably better than Arc Light. I’d give more credit to changing styles than Harry improving in the fundamentals (although he still did), but the result is what it is-a good cheap thriller if you can get past the setup.