Larry Bond’s Red Phoenix, telling the story of a second Korean War, is something I’ve struggled with for a while but now, after a lot of other books read, have the words to successfully describe. In short, it’s the Marine Force One of “big war thrillers”.
Every archetype of the small genre is there. The shifting viewpoints from top to bottom. Going into every part of the theater. And so on. And they’re executed with enough skill to not be bad, but not enough to be truly memorable or standing out.
What does stand out, and which I also have a more nuanced view of than I used to, is the long intro setting up the war. I’ve thought it, from a literary perspective, to be less than ideal. It’s taking a huge amount of effort to set up something the reader already knows will happen.
But from a plausibility perspective, given the massive unlikelihood of a Second Korean War even at the height of the north’s power, I can forgive it for putting in the effort to set up a situation where it could happen. It’s certainly better and less ridiculous than Cauldron at any rate.
And what else is there to say? This is very much a “if you like the genre, you’ll like this book. If you don’t, you won’t” kind of novel.
3 thoughts on “Review: Red Phoenix”
I always heard this part of the genre referred to as ‘techno thrillers.’ As far as the early ones go, I always considered Red Phoenix a cut above the rest, but that may have been because I read it around same time I was stationed in Korea.
Remember too that Larry Bond was a former US Navy officer & wargame designer. This book probably started as a scenario book for his wargame Harpoon. His acquaintance (friend?) Tom Clancy, who he assisted when writing Red Storm Rising, probably encouraged him to write this one.
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