I received a copy of Time Bomb Ticking by Hyrum Laney in return for an honest review. I have never understood why people put the word “honest” in front of review but I see most reviewers do this so I will conform, at least most of the time. I received the book on Friday evening and finished it by noon Saturday; I didn’t want to put it down and I didn’t want it to end as it did.
This the first review I have written where I have gone to see what other reviewers wrote. Ninety- three reviewers have offered opinions and I was surprised to NOT find comments that I intend to make. First, this novel is fast paced, extremely interesting, and captures the reader. I disagree most with other reviewers about the mix of reality and fiction. Other reviewers comment that this novel ends with a cliffhanger. In fact, it ends with several cliffhangers. One is an implied ending that is a military or government person’s worst nightmare. I was motivated to immediately buy the second book of the series. But I won’t. I want to see if the author will send me the second book in the series in return for a review. My refusal to buy the second is because I am acting out of a fit of pique about the ending. The indefinite conclusion is the only negative thing I intend to say about the novel. Only positive things follow.
The story is in no way simple. US officials are confident the Chinese are up to something with their military build-up. A covert action is needed to confirm suspicions and find out details. A submarine is the transportation tool with Navy SEAL team members to get more direct eyes on suspected targets. If caught, capture is unacceptable; the submarine, with attached mini-submarine, was to be destroyed. Surviving Navy officers, crew, and SEAL team members were to escape and evade. Everything is top secret compartmented intelligence with the fewest people possible knowing the mission. Like “Mission Impossible,” the secretary will disavow … In this case, it is the US President who will deny.
Things go wrong. Why? Was it due to superior enemy intelligence; was there intentional betrayal or slipshod security? These are unanswered questions. But there are a lot of deaths on the US side. I was surprised at some of the characters who were killed off. After deaths on the US side, there are deaths on the Chinese side also. But they are the enemy; we don’t care. This is a fast-paced action novel which gives a reviewer a chance to write many spoilers. I don’t intend to do so.
Ex-military types might enjoy this book. A few negative reviews criticized the author over weapon capability details. OK, but the substitution of the cited inaccuracies with correct information wouldn’t change the story. As an ex-military type, I was not offended by 2:00AM (correctly written as 0200 and said as oh-two-hundred).
In addition to being ex-military, I am an ex-government staffer. I was impressed by the portrayal of the amount of government worker time spent in CYA activities. When things go “south,” who is to blame? The political machinations described by Laney are very accurate. These are internal political concerns, internal to an agency or internal to the US.
Then there are the external political realities. No one disputes the size of US debt held by the Chinese. It seems we coexist in a global financial environment because of faith in a rational actor government model. Chinese attempts to seriously damage the US financial structure would result in mutually assured destruction (in an earlier US policy context, MAD). Not everyone plays rationally and what is rational for one culture may not be so for another. This novel examines the reality in a fictional setting.
When is it appropriate to sacrifice a few for the good of the many? That theme runs throughout the novel. The submarine Charlotte is on as close to a suicide mission as possible. Men may be sacrificed to obtain accurate intelligence. In this novel, they are. Is this justified?
A very small segment is devoted to the idea of political asylum. Should the US government be responsible for the fate of semi-nude Chinese women found in the ocean? I think so but I am biased.
Finally, there is an implied ending which raises this moral question. We know that military people on a mission risk their lives. Is it ever permitted for US officials to kill US citizens (military) to protect a secret? This is what I meant by an implied cliffhanger. It didn’t seem to bother other reviewers. But that unaddressed implication led me to the fit of pique from which I don’t want to purchase book two of the series.
This was a very good reading experience.