The Hydra Protocol by David Wellington is a suspenseful, gripping novel. It is a warning about the dangers of Russia, nuclear weapons, and rogue intelligence officials. This exciting thriller brings back memories of the Cold War era where annihilation was the fear of many Americans. The tale has both modern day and future computer technologies interwoven with Soviet atrocities and history.
From the very beginning of the book the action is intense. A Russian intelligence agent, Nadia, informs America about a secret project conceived during the 1980’s, HYDRA, a forgotten Cold War supercomputer that controls hundreds of nuclear missiles aimed at the US. Jim Chapel, a retired Army Ranger, who now works for a secret US intelligence agency is assigned to work with Nadia. Their mission is to prevent nuclear annihilation by infiltrating a top secret Russian military base and disable the supercomputer. Within the settings traveled are the US, Cuba, Eastern Europe, and Russia.
Wellington commented to blackfive.net, “Jim is my way of saying a thank you to the troops. They have done an incredible job. These people are not about entitlements but are extraordinarily responsible. Jim is an emblem of how much I respect and admire our soldiers. I gave him a prosthetic arm because I wanted to show the sacrifices our soldiers make as well as the advancements made on how they work.”
Unlike Wellington’s first novel, Chimera, this one has no science fiction and can be classified solely as a thriller. There are no super human beings and horror stories as with his other novels. However, there are “horror” scenes when his Russian interrogators torture Chapel after being captured. The true nature of the Russians is displayed by the author but is done in a thoughtful way without grossing out the readers.
Another issue examined is how someone’s moral character can change after experiencing a dark period in their life. Chapel has moral lapses while on the mission, but thankfully recovers and once again becomes a person to root for. It is interesting how Wellington contrasts the American patriot, Chapel, with the rogue Russian patriot, Nadia, in personality and with their intentions. Through the relationship scenes these characters are humanized and make the plot more realistic.
Through Nadia’s eyes readers are able to understand how Russia is the master to the Soviet satellites who are treated no better than slaves. Throughout history the Russians have taken over territories for their own purpose. While doing this they pollute them and endanger them to chemical, biological, and nuclear threats.
The author noted to blackfive.net, “Russia takes advantage of these satellite states that cannot fight back. Look at what happened at Chernobyl. There is now this area that is radioactive. All life was killed and when scientists were sent there it was so quiet it was surreal. The Russian government countered this by putting up loudspeakers playing music. Another example, Lake Baikal used to be larger and is greatly downsized because of the chemical pollutants. There is also an Island nearby where bioweapons were tested and now Russia abandoned it, but never cleaned it up. Russia is creating and has created environmental time bombs.”
The Hydra Protocol is a fast action thriller with a lot of twists and turns. It is a reminder of the brutality of the Russians, and a warning of how deadly nuclear weapons can be, even obsolete ones. Anyone that wants to understand the fears and terror that can be brought about by having nuclear weapons fall under the wrong hands must read this book.