The Kill Switch written by James Rollins and Grant Blackwood can be considered part science fiction, part historical novel, and part military thriller. Intertwined within all Rollins books is a combination of these genres. This book is the first in a series about a military dog, Kane, and his handler, Tucker Wayne, although this former military team was first introduced in the Sigma series book, Bloodline.
It is interesting how the two authors used their strengths to write this storyline. Grant brings to the table his military mindset, which was needed since Tucker is a former Army Ranger. Since Grant is a former Navy veteran he knows how a service person would handle a threat differently from a civilian. On the other hand Rollins is able to write about the historical and scientific elements as well as the behavior of Kane.
The plot has Tucker and Kane assigned by the Sigma Team to extract from Russian soil a pharmaceutical scientist. He is a volatile man who holds the secret to a deadly bioweapon. This scientist, Abram Bukatov is close to finding a “kill switch” for LUCA, a plant organism that spreads like wildfire and if turned into a weapon will disrupt or destroy the food supply. Throughout the book is a cat and mouse chase between the Tucker team and a rogue Russian General’s team that includes the Swedish sniper, Felice Nilsson. Written in a very intense and suspenseful manner, the story delves into how Tucker and Kane must overcome betrayal, being hunted, and a terrorist attack that could be catastrophic to the world’s agricultural supply.
The scenes with Tucker and Kane are the most interesting parts of the book. Rollins, a practicing veterinarian, skillfully writes Kane, a Belgian Malinois, as one of the main characters. He writes from Kane’s point of view through the use of italics, and uses the present tense to capture the dog’s mindset since most live in the moment. The relationship between Kane and Tucker is heart felt and as strong a bond as any human companionship. Readers might think to accept this animal story you have to put belief to one side, but not true. As someone who has done research and written articles on military dogs I can attest to the believability and realism.
Any dog lover will appreciate the quote, “No wonder I like dogs better than people.” Rollins captures what all dog lovers feel from their furry companion: the unconditional love, loyalty, and honesty. Being a veterinarian he is able to explain animal behavior through Kane’s actions.
Rollins noted to blackfive.net, “If people acted like dogs the world would be a better place. I hoped to show in this book how amazing military dogs and their handlers are, especially since dogs can string together words to form commands and actions. I went to Lackland Air Force base and watched how they work. I was actually given the idea a few years ago when on a USO author book tour, to Iraq, I met a former college classmate. He is now a vet and works with Army dogs.
While Rollins concentrates on Kane, Blackwood writes about Tucker’s mindset towards the enemy. Any Special Forces person feels it is their duty to find and destroy, to seek out the enemy and eliminate the threat. Throughout the book Blackwood makes it obvious that Tucker has no apprehension of killing the bad guys and anyone who becomes an enemy combatant becomes a target.
Blackwood told blackfive.net, “It is the capriciousness of war. You can follow your training, excel at everything you do, but if you are one foot to the right at the wrong second the bullet that would have missed you ends up killing you. Any kind of firefight is such a chaotic environment, you just cannot worry about dying.”
Readers through this book quote, “such was the changeable nature of war, where life, death, disfigurement, were measured in inches and seconds,” will understand the dangers a military person must go through each and every day, that firefights in itself present chaotic environments.
The authors also gave a heads up about the next book in the series. In the second book a former flame of Tucker lands on his doorstep with child in tow, and requests his help. The Sigma team will make a cameo appearance after Tucker realizes he is in over his head and asks them for help. This plot will deal with germ warfare and surveillance systems. Rollins describes it as a techno-scientific-thriller.
Because the authors feel strongly about military personnel they hope that this book appears authentic. It is a fantastic adventure story with non-stop action. But it is more than that because The Kill Switch shows the close bond between dog and partner, and the readers will fall in love with this canine and his handler.