Thursday, July 28, 2016

Done: "Shadow War" by Sean McFate

Done: Shadow War by Sean McFate, 2016, 9780062403704.

Crimespree magazine posted an interview with McFate and the book sounded interesting so I placed a library hold. The novel is well done and I enjoyed it. What leaves you thinking - well, it left me thinking - is the modern use of contractors and mercenaries. How private soldiers and shooters are used by governments and industry. The work those people are assigned and how the jobs are completed.

Plot: Tom Locke is an African specialist for a international security firm and he is asked by a company executive to run an operation in the Ukraine. Locke is tasked with bringing out a Ukrainian oligarch who is now in disfavor. Locke must then recapture a natural gas transfer station within the Eastern Ukraine war zone. The gas plant has been taken by Russian Soldiers and the oligarch needs to show himself freeing the plant from invading Russians.

Locke is given a handful of men and lots of money to run the operation. There are no written records, no electronic records, no phone records. Locke is verbally given the assignment and told to complete the job however needed. Bribery, beatings, kidnappings, bombings, killings are all acceptable methods as long as the company and the oligarch client are not connected to the action.

Meanwhile, Company Executive is using this operation to run his own investment schemes with the oligarch, international super bankers, and American investors to get control of the Ukrainian reserves and pipelines. Then Locke's former girlfriend and current journalist shows up in ukraine, recognizes Locke, and starts looking for a story.

Things happen with casual killing, helicopters, subterfuge, gunfights, "Tier 1 Operators", global scheming, local scheming, interpersonal scheming, oligarching, pragmatism, etc.

Each character has their own views about mercenary work and whether private contracting is good or not. Company Executive prides himself on entering the rarefied rooms of the super-duper-extra-powerful-crush-your-life-with-a-nod people. His bespoke suits are only from the "correct" tailors. He drinks the rarest scotch. His cigars are ritualistically prepared. Basically, he is a rich douchebag. Company Executive runs his own private army and his standing contracts with the Pentagon - all contracts are oversight free - are just a part of what his people do.

Locke portrays himself as a good guy. He says he joined up because he now avoids government red tape. U.S. Army red tape in Bosnia prevented Locke from stopping a massacre and he now thrives on the freedom to operate however he needs. He runs guns into Africa. He trains rebels and government soldiers. He plans attacks. He kills people who won't sell to oil companies. He's a bit delusional on his importance to humanity. Especially when he kills those in the way of his "mission". Because, let's face it, his mission is to enrich the rich. He's not fighting for democracy and human rights.

Reporter Girlfriend is angry with Locke after Locke disappeared 10 years ago. She dislikes mercenary work. Her past goals of reporting on, and stopping, human trafficking and forced sex labor stopped getting published. In fact, she's now known as the Washed Up Crusading Sex Reporter and people privately ridicule her past efforts.  Reporter Girlfriend's current work leaves her hustling for freelance work and online news sites.

Anyhoo. This is an action thriller with some meat behind it. Plenty of uber rich running the world. Plenty of death and violence in lawless societies where might makes right. Anarchy and genocide are always waiting for the boil.

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