Review: Frontal Assault

SEAL Team Seven: Frontal Assault

By the time of Frontal Assault, the “Keith Douglass” behind SEAL Team Seven was veteran cheap thriller writer Chet Cunningham. To give an idea of how long and prolific his career was, Cunningham wrote half of the Penetrator books close to twenty years before this one.

Really, this whole book is “what if a classic men’s adventure novelist wrote a technothriller?” Because it is. It combines the very basics of a technothriller (high tech military weapons! Superweapons! Big-picture struggles!) with a bunch of set pieces as Blake Murdock and his team struggle to go against…. Saddam Hussein.

I admit to feeling just a little uneasy about books using then-living real people in them, even utterly unsympathetic dictators (Tin Soldiers and Proud Legions at least had fictional strongmen oust Saddam and Kim Jong-Il before beginning the plot). It’s not a deal-breaker, but it still feels tacky. Even if this genre is tacky.

There’s inaccuracies like “.25 revolvers”, the USMC still using M48 tanks in the 2000s, and other nitpicky designations, along with a strategic big picture that’s, um, well, less than entirely accurate. As for the actual battles, if original author William Keith tried to at least have a tiny bit of grounding and Direct Action at least got most of the designations right, this is just pure action spectacle with all one would expect from a classic pulp thriller writer. Any one of the set pieces could have made up an entire book on its own, so putting them all in makes this book feel both audacious and overstuffed.

But still, I had fun with this.

Review: SEAL Team Seven Direct Action

SEAL Team Seven 4: Direct Action

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The SEAL Team Seven series, however much I enjoyed the first installment, is not the kind of series where reading every book in order is the most appropriate. So I decided on Direct Action for two main reasons. The first is that the summary seemed a little interesting. The second is that it’s the first book after original author William Keith was replaced by another writer under the “Keith Douglass” house name.

So, Lt. Blake Murdock (it’s not quite Blaine McCracken but it’s close) has to lead his SEALS into Lebanon to destroy a plant producing counterfeit American money, fighting Hezbollah and the Syrian Army in the process. The prose is a little clunkier and the action somewhat more extreme than the first book, but it’s still a good cheap thriller.

In fact, this book manages to have its cake and eat it too in a good way. It manages to have its SEALS scything their way through enemy fighters, soldiers, commandos, BMPS, and helicopters while at the same time throwing semi-plausible bits of “friction” in their path to make them earn their mission-and not without loss.

A part of me has “glass half empty” thoughts where I think “what if the big-name technothriller writers did a slightly higher-brow version of this instead of clunking along with an increasingly obsolete Cold War thriller model?” and lament what wasn’t. But another part of me has “glass half full” thoughts where I can just enjoy this well-done cheap thriller for what it is.

Review: SEAL Team Seven

SEAL Team Seven

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This book about a certain amphibious special forces unit is quite possibly one of the best 1990s military/techno-thrillers I’ve read. It spawned a huge series, and I can see why. SEAL Team Seven is very, very good.

The book tells the story of Lt. Blake Murdock, the son of a powerful political family (while present, the clunky politics in this book aren’t too bad) and his titular team as they’re called to action in a big crisis. Because this is a 90s thriller, the antagonists are a zombie sorceress-assisted mix of renegade Japanese and renegade Iranians who’ve taken control of a freighter loaded with plutonium. SEAL Team Seven has good fundamentals and manages to have its cake and eat it too.

It starts with a well-written battle in post-Desert Storm Iraq. Then the opening act introduces and humanizes the characters. When the main conflict starts, the action is highly well done and manages, for the most part, just the right mixture of “grounded” and “fantastical”.

SEAL Team Seven isn’t literary fiction or anything like that, it’s still ultimately just a cheap thriller that has a lot of cheap thriller components and cliches. But it’s an excellent cheap thriller.