Imagine a sophisticated piece of equipment, a UAV, a spy plane, being sent on a mission into enemy territory only to have something go terribly wrong. The enemy gets ahold of this drone and attempts to change the data and technology for their own purposes, attacking America. This is not the recent news story where Iran captured a CIA drone, but the plot of the latest book by Jim DeFelice and Dale Brown, A Dreamland Thriller: Raven Strike.
Since it takes about a year to write a book, this plot was obviously conceived before the current event. The plot is very realistic and exciting. DeFelice has a special-ops group, the Whiplash Team, headed by Danny Freah dropping into the Sudan to recover the top-secret aircraft from the enemy. Besides being up against the clock, having to find it before the enemies get the technology, the Team must also deal with the chaos of a brutal African Civil War. Raven, as the drone is called, refers to an “off the books” project that seeks out and destroys whoever is targeted.
DeFelice commented that he wrote the plot to emphasize “once a machine can start to think what happens when it does the work for us? I was hoping to show the limits and advantages of technology. I also wanted to point out when do you risk implementing something. The UAV over Iran is a perfect example. We lost technology in order to make a gain. No gains come when there are no risks. You never want the feeling; it’s too valuable to lose.” In his next book he will further delve into the conflict between man and machine: who has the control?
The brutality of what happens in Africa is clearly highlighted through different character quotes. For example in the book he talks about the fate of women in the Sudan, “…kill yourself and the women so you don’t have to suffer if the bastards get past us.”
The sub-plots of the book explore relationships, whether between friends or the secrets between a husband and wife. Brenna Stockhard, in charge of the Whiplash Team is married to Senator Jeff, “Zen,” Stockhard. DeFelice shows what it is like to have classified information and not able to bring work home or talk about it with your spouse. There is a scene in the book where Brenna and Zen argue over the classified information and DeFelice shows how personal relationships are affected, having Zen comment in the book, “When I come back, truce. No work discussion…” He felt that “Brenna has to be in the middle of issues since she is central to the series. She will always have a prominent role.”
The other sub-plot involves the relationship between friends, Zen and Mark Stoner who is described as, “the recipient of numerous biomechanical improvements and a host of steroidlike drugs have turned him into something approaching a Superman.” Stoner, a close friend of Zen who had saved Brenna’s life, was presumed dead after a mission fifteen years ago. A recent Whiplash mission had found him alive, although altered physically and mentally. Zen continues to help and reach out to Stoner. DeFelice wanted to explore how “people stay faithful to their friends or family members when they have changed drastically. How should we respond and support our family and friends when they are not as capable or the same people as they were in the past?”
This book is action packed, suspenseful, and realistic. As with all Dreamland books the theme is a combination of personal stories and how technology is used for national security purposes. Anyone that wants a vacation from football should pick up this book during the holiday season since it will be a quick read.