Jim DeFelice and Dale Brown’s latest book, Collateral Damage, is another story in the Dreamland series. After the fall of Muammar Gaddafi, Dreamland’s Whiplash is sent into the Libyan conflict as part of an intervention team. It decides to deploy the latest weapon, the Sabre, an unmanned highly advanced aerial drone. The plot takes off from the very first chapter when one of the Sabres goes rogue and attacks a civilian complex. Although the main plot involves the investigation into what went wrong there are many interesting sub-plots as well.
The theme of the book can be summarized in one word, conflict. The authors explore a number of different conflicts, many of them based around the characters. Colonel Ginella Ernesto, a US pilot, decides to use her power to sexually harass a pilot under her command, Captain Turk Mako. She makes sexual advances to the young Captain where they eventually land in bed. Defelice told blackfive.net, “I wanted to allow the reader to question, ‘if she was a man and Turk was a woman would people have reacted differently? Was she allowed to get away with stuff because she was a woman?’”
There is also the conflict of Turk being involved in a love triangle. After asking out a fellow pilot, Captain Li Pike, he hoped to avoid Ginella. After she found out about Pike she wrote a report that would have a negative effect on his career if she decided to pursue it. The reason was evidently clear, jealously.
Some characters had to fight their own inner self, battling a conflict within. The potential villain, Neil Kharon, battled the desire for revenge; yet, could not bring himself to hate the person he plotted against. DeFelice wanted to show that “revenge is a huge motivator. All it does is destroy whoever is encompassed by it. I wanted to show that revenge never pays.”
Ray Rubio, who Defelice described as a “geek’s geek, the scientist behind Whiplash’s technology,” had two inner conflicts. The first came when he could not help a fellow scientist escape a fire set by a saboteur, and the guilt that ensued. The second conflict came when he had to reconcile in his mind why his invention went rogue. A quote from the book, “the simple reason that science and war coexisted: science opposed evil.” DeFelice wanted to show the conflict of scientists “Who want to make the world a better place. They feel science can change the world for the better. The technology would save pilot lives since they would not be put in harm’s way.”
Any DeFelice and Brown book will have an abundance of technology and this book was no different. The technology in the book seems very realistic since there is already a pilotless drone being unveiled by the navy. They explore the differences between a pilot, who flies an old school plane, the “A-10E” that the pilot maneuvers by himself, with a stick and rudder versus the remote pilot system of the Tigershark, that takes instructions from the pilot but does the actual calculations and targeting. Defelice gave the example of a new car, which has an auto mechanism that turns on the headlights. He describes the conflict, “Is it an intrusion into the decision making where you don’t actually do it yourself? We have to confront those decisions where we actually lose some control.”
The authors also confront the rules of engagement issue. A very powerful quote from the book describing how the Islamic extremists use “woman and children to shield themselves, making it difficult for them to be attacked without killing innocent lives.” The conflict for any military person engaged in a fire fight is the decision to attack the enemy when surrounded by civilians, and if they do not, will that cost them the mission or deaths to their comrades.
Collateral Damage allows the reader to think about the many conflicts that those in the military must face. It is authentic, insightful, and very gripping. During the holiday season sit by the fireplace with this must read book.