Thursday, August 23, 2012

Some Fun Reading: Tom Kratman's Countdown: H Hour

The third in the Countdown series, Countdown: H Hour is an excellent read that's hard to put down.

Set in the disutopian not-too-distant-future, it continues the story of the Regiment begun in the first Countdown book.

Instead of regimental level battles and strategy, the focus of the book is on a small unit and then a composite combined arms team level force of about battalion strength. The action takes place simultaneously as that in the second book, Countdown: M Day, with interesting consequences.

As usual for Col. Kratman, the military organization and action scenes are tightly narrated and highly believable, with lots of things that go boom. He has no hesitation killing off characters, even very likable characters, should the plot demand. He also has no difficulty having the antagonists think and act in realistic ways that cause real trouble for his protagonists, and things never go quite as planned.

Self-depreciating and self-referential at times, Col. Kratman brings in the occasional references to himself as a "hack science fiction author", and his prior mil/sci-fi book, A Desert Called Peace features in quite an interesting way.

Col. Kratman has a solid knowledge of history, military operations, and current world affairs, along with very little tolerance for today's empty-headed "tranzis" - progressive transnationals, and it shows throughout the book.

As always it is the little details he throws in are what make the book a joy to read:

For example, just as an aside, we learn in dialogue that a certain tranzi finds her theory of human relations doesn't match reality and is killed in the Greater Chicago Ipad-9 riots. Think about it, a fuzzy minded intellectual dying in the Greater Chicago Ipad-9 riots.....

Not to mention the appearance of the Emperor Mongo, and characters with quips and actions that suit the moment very well, as well as the handiness of having a functional sociopath on hand.

Col. Kratman, as usual, ends with an afterword that almost makes you wish he had a regular column somewhere - He combines erudite political analysis and opinion that certainly makes you think.

Oh, and anti-Americans should remember this cautionary notice from the book:

"Americans. We will cross a frozen river to kill you. In your sleep. On Christmas."

Yeah, it is that kind of book.

In short, Countdown: H Hour is a definite recommended read and a worthy continuation of the Countdown series. Expect lots of quality dialogue, interesting situations and lots of shooty and stuff-that-go-boom goodness. Be sure to read the preceding books first to gain the highest enjoyment from the tale.

Luckily for us readers, the last few pages leave open the probability that another book in the series will come out, and that there will be more of the well-thought out scenarios we've come to enjoy from the series.

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