Tag Archives: Patrick Robinson

Barracuda 945, Patrick Robinson

Harper Torch, 2003, 498 pages, C$10.99 mmpb, ISBN 0-06-008663-7

There are five stages to reading a Patrick Robinson novel.

The first is surprise. Surprise that any editor, anywhere, would still be publishing Robinson after reading any of his previous novels. Robinson, after all, is the ultimate anti-writer: the clunkers he serves under the optimistic label of “novels” are nothing more than an exploration of mistakes to avoid for any budding writer of military fiction. Awful writing is only a beginning for him: what usually follows is a parade of undistinguished caricatures in lieu of characters, impulsive militarism standing in for actual thinking and geopolitics that would make blood-thirsty right-wing pundits blanch. Plotting, for him, is just a series of steps to get from Cool Idea A to Cool Idea B… except that both of those Cool Ideas would best be described as daydreams from a sub-literate moron actively enjoying psychopathic megalomania. The biggest surprise, of course, is that someone out there is still buying those books: I’ve never paid more than a full dollar for a Robinson novel because I keep finding them at used book sales. And yet, someone must be buying them new if they keep showing up for a second sale, right?

The second stage is bemusement. Bemusement that Robinson hasn’t learnt anything from his previous novels, and that no one has deemed it appropriate to tell him what’s wrong about his books. As Barracuda 945 gets underway, the first hundred pages are all about the book’s main villain, Ray Kerman, a top SAS operative forced to defect after killing one of his own men during a raid in Southern Israel. Despite a thoroughly Western education, Iranian-born Kerman proves surprisingly adept in becoming the next Top Terrorist, although Robinson’s favourite protagonist Arnold Morgan is quick to point out that you really can’t trust anyone who’s not of solid Anglo-Saxon material. And so it goes. Kerman (soon rechristened Ravi Rashood) is, of course, intensely reminiscent of USS Nimitz and HMS Unseen‘s Benjamin Adnam… but that’s hardly the only recurring feature from the rest of the series. Morgan’s back, of course, and so are fluffy bride-to-be Kathy and Jimmy Ramshawe, a randy young analyst who can figure out the obvious faster than anyone else. As for the other characters, the only one of interest is the lovely (yet predictably deadly) Shakira, an ex-housewife whose interest for American movies merely matches her tactical genius. I could detail how she finds her way in the novel and Kerman/Rahood’s arms, but then you would accuse me of lying.

Moving on: The third stage in reading a Robinson novel is dismay. Dismay that Robinson can still rely on the same tired tricks without being called on it. Dismay that he’s really not getting better at either the plotting or the writing of his novel. Here, the focus of the so-called plot is a fiendish plot to strike at America’s power sources from the stealth of a missile-armed submarine. Never mind that China and Iran once again team up to buy two top-notch nuclear submarines to give to a turncoat terrorist. Never mind how the US Navy could ping the heck out of the West Coast to find out where the submarine’s hidden. (Heck, never mind how the listening posts could pinpoint the launch coordinates of any sea-launched missile.) It doesn’t really matter: Barracuda 945 has maybe five important plot points and the rest is filler. Filler written with the glee of a thirteen year old who’s just telling his friends what a neat neat idea he’s just had for their next D&D campaign.

The fourth stage is amusement. Amusement at Robinson’s worst excesses and his uncanny tin ear for either dialogue or humour. Barracuda 945 features a few scenes that were probably intended as humour, but end up making the author look like an idiot with tons of unresolved issues. Right in the middle of a military thriller, Robinson takes a break on P.388-392 to describe an Academy Awards ceremony, with jokes that fall flat more quickly than you’d ever imagine. Robinson may think he’s funny, but there’s still a long way to go from his brain to the reader’s mind. Then there’s the screamingly funny bit at the end of Chapter 10 where the action grinds to a halt and Robinson’s favourite characters all rant and rail against Clinton’s decision to scrap the military restrictions on GPS. As they scream epithets against Clinton and find themselves very funny (as indicated by Morgan’s “ability to bring the house down” [P.364]) the scene only reveals Robinson in an unguarded moment of pure insanity. (It doesn’t help that one character points out the benefits of military-grade GPS for everyone, shutting up the characters for three lines before they start railing against Clinton again.) As Robinson shows, the problem isn’t with conservatives; it’s with dumb conservatives. In the meantime, you can just read the passage out loud to friends and wonder how that ever got past his editor.

But why worry? After all, the fifth stage of reading a Patrick Robinson novel is author-specific pyromania.

The Shark Mutiny, Patrick Robinson

Harper Torch, 2001, 493 pages, C$10.99 mmpb, ISBN 0-06-103066-X

Faithful readers of these reviews already know how little I think of Patrick Robinson’s so-called military thrillers. Bad plotting, lousy characters, awful prose: Frankly, I just keep reading them because they make me laugh and point. And so it struck me, a third into The Shark Mutiny, how much better the whole series would be as a sitcom. One thing led to another, and pretty soon I was writing an episode for…

CRAZY NAVY!

Episode 4: The Guppy Mutiny

We open on ADMIRAL MORGAN, the lovable old coot who’s the hero of this series. MORGAN is snappily dressed in a red, white and blue suit made out of American Flag fabric, an outfit that blends seamlessly with the decoration of his office. His white beard is cut in a fashion halfway between Uncle Sam’s and Colonel Sanders. Reading the newspaper, he sees something that makes him look up abruptly.

Morgan: Kaaathy!

From the cheers and clapping from the audience, we know it’s already a series catchphrase.

Kathy enters the office. She is a “spectacular redhead who, for three years, have refused to marry him.” [P.58]

Kathy: Oh Admiral! Have you called me to ask me in marriage?

Morgan: Yes, damnit!

Kathy: I told you before, darling; not before you’re retired!

Morgan: Grrr! This flirting is making me want to nuke someone!

Kathy: And how is that different from your usual sunny disposition, darling?

Morgan: Good point, but I still want to nuke someone. Who’s our enemy today?

Jimmy Ramshawe enters the room. He is a young earnest intelligence Lieutenant with a slight Australian accent.

Jimmy: Sir! I have uncovered evidence that the Iranians and Chinese are planning to mine the strait of Hormuz and block the worldwide transport of oil!

Morgan: Hot diggity dawg! What’s your evidence, lieutenant?

Jimmy shows a stack of invoices.

Jimmy: Receipts for Russian underwater mines, sir! It stands to reason that if they bought it, they’ll use ’em!

Morgan: What an enlightening insight in contemporary tactics! But wait- you speak like a foreigner!

Jimmy: I’m from Australia, sir! But I’m good enough to be privy to American secrets! My father is a kick-ass Admiral! I’m dating the ambassador’s daughter!

Morgan: Do you want to nuke someone too?

Jimmy: Er… what normal boy wouldn’t, sir?

Morgan: Good stuff! You’re all right! Kaaathy! Get me a secret camera in the Chinese navy briefing room!

Behind him, the wall reveals a video screen. It lights up to a meeting of Iranian and Chinese officials.

Chine Official: Death to America! Bwa-hah-ha!

Iranian Official: Whee! Death to America!

The screen is replaced by a view of the globe between China and Iran.

Morgan: Damn! I’m “always completely mistrustful of the men from the Orient!” [P.138] What fiendish plot are they planning? Where will they strike next?

A courier brings a message to Jimmy, who reads it before shouting out.

Jimmy: Sir! A tanker just exploded in the strait of Hormuz!

Morgan: (shrugging) Eh, that happens.

Another courier.

Jimmy: Sir! Another tanker just exploded in the strait of Hormuz!

Morgan: (shrugging) Well, what can you do?

A third courier.

Jimmy: Sir! Another tanker blew up!

Morgan: It’s war! Yay! Send the entire American fleet to the Persian Gulf! We’ll teach them to mess with our imperialistic stranglehold on the world supply of oil! Kaaathy!

Kathy: All done, darling. Anyone can now walk from the UAE to Iran on top of our carriers!

Morgan: But I still haven’t nuked anyone today. Why can’t I get any satisfaction? We’ve gone too long without nuking someone! Let’s hit that oil refinery! Get me the bestest of the best SEALs!

Kathy: How about just a good one?

Morgan: No! The bestest of the best!

Kathy: How about any one of the US Navy’s superbly trained SEALs?

Morgan: NO! I SAID I WANT THE BESTEST OF THE BEST!

Kathy: All right.

A tall blond Aryan man is delivered in the room with a forklift. He remains ramrod-straight throughout.

SEAL #1: US NAVY SEAL! SIR YES SIR!

Morgan: Soldier, “these guys are not just stepping lightly on our toes! They’re running us over with a fleet of [flippin’] rickshaws, and I’m not having it!” [P.158] So go ahead and nuke’em.

SEAL #1: SIR YES SIR!

The forklift retreats along with Navy Seal #1.

Morgan: Good thing done.

A moment passes, and then: Another courier.

Jimmy: Sir! The raid is a complete success! Parts of the refinery are headed for orbit, and the other parts are going straight to the center of the earth! We’ve created a new volcano and killed thousands of civilians!

Mrogan: “Consider the sound made by a cupful of gasoline on a bonfire just before you toss a lighted match into it –and then multiply that sound by around 40 million. That’s loud.” [P.54]

Jimmy: But two of our SEALs died! Including the bestest of the best!

Tears fill Admiral Morgan’s eyes.

Morgan: That devastates me. I loved that man like no others, at the possible exception of Ted Kennedy. In a strictly heterosexual way, of course.

Jimmy: Of course, sir.

Morgan: This makes me so angry, I just WANT TO NUKE SOMEONE!

Another courier.

Jimmy: Sir! China has invaded Taiwan!

Morgan: Yes! Nuke’em!

Kathy: But darling! All of our forc
es are near the Persian Gulf!

Morgan: Curses! The mines were a trap! Foiled again by these devious foreigners!

Jimmy: Um, sir? What about our forces in Japan, the Philipines, Diego Garcia-

Morgan: Shut up, Jimmy! I’m trying to figure out why China would invade Taiwan.

Jimmy: Because this ends what they see as forty years of internal rebellion from a rebellious splinter group they never formally acknowledged because it also claimed to be China’s official government?

Morgan: That’s poppycock, son! It’s obvious to everyone that they invaded Taiwan for the precious treasures in their national museum

Jimmy: What- what? Treasures? Where did that come from?

Morgan: Hush, little boy! Look at the screen!

Another view of the Chinese and Iranian officials.

Chinese admiral: “WANT TREASURE BACK! WANT TREASURE BACK!” [P.278]

Morgan: See?

Jimmy: I humbly stand corrected.

Morgan: You better be. Kathy, anyone else to nuke?

Kathy: Well, the Chinese are still in Taiwan.

Morgan: Right! Let’s nuke Taiwan! Kathy, get me the red button!

Jimmy: Sir? Wouldn’t it be better to sent a SEAL team?

Morgan: You’re right son! I loves them SEALs! Get me the bestest of the best SEALs!

Kathy: Dead, darling. Don’t you mean the second-best of the-

Morgan: BESTEST OF THE BESTEST MEANS STILL ALIVE, KATHY!

Kathy: Working on it.

Another SEAL is hauled in the office.

SEAL #2: SIR YES SIR!

Morgan: Go destroy stuff. Try not to get killed.

SEAL #2: SIR YES SIR!

He exits.

Morgan whistles, waiting for a big boom. Finally, a communication comes onto his screen.

SEAL #2: Admiral Morgan! We’ve got a problem, sir!

Morgan: Have you destroyed stuff?

SEAL #2: SIR YES SIR!

Morgan: Then what’s the problem?

SEAL #2: The commander of our submarine had gone nuts! He thinks he’s the reincarnation of some French loser!

Morgan: Wow, that’s crazy.

SEAL #2: What should we do, sir?

Morgan: Ask him if he can nuke part of China for me.

A pause.

SEAL #2: He says no.

Morgan: Crazy! Shoot him!

A gunshot is heard.

Morgan: Outstanding work, sailor! You just saved us eighty pages of a stupid last act that has nothing to do with the rest of this story.

He closes the screen and wipes his hand.

Morgan: And that’s another triumphant day for American hegemony.

He puts his hands on his hips and strikes a triumphant pose.

Jimmy: But Admiral! Taiwan is still held by the Chinese!

Morgan: Who cares? It’ll all be forgotten in time for the next episode.

A final courier.

Jimmy: But sir! 9/11! Afghanistan! Iraq! Terrorists are the new enemy! Our imagined world of 2008 as seen from early 2001 doesn’t even make sense any more!

A pause as Morgan thinks it through.

Morgan: Yay, a new enemy to nuke! Come on, Jimmy and Kathy, let’s bellow our favourite song!

They lock arms and begin high-stepping, singing the series’ signature FUN-DAMENTALIST ANTAGONISTS! musical number.

Curtains descend.

U.S.S. Seawolf, Patrick Robinson

Harper Torch, 2000, 482 pages, C$9.99 mmpb, ISBN 0-06-103065-1

Show me a critic without an author they love to hate and I will show you a reviewer without passion, without the killer instinct so necessary in this often-dreary job. While some will save their bile for Piers Anthony, Kevin J. Anderson or William Shatner, I’ve had three remarkably enjoyable occasions so far to slag the work of Patrick Robinson: His Nimitz Class, Kilo Class and H.M.S. Unseen remain some of the most pathetic attempts at the techno-thriller genre ever written.

(Note for sensible readers: No, I don’t hate Patrick Robinson as a person. For all that I know, he’s probably a great human being who’s kind to humanity, fond of little animals and respectful of the biosphere. We could probably enjoy a fascinating conversation over a good meal and I’d feel ashamed of everything I’ve written about his books. Until then, however, his books don’t measure up to the accepted standard and you can read my reviews to understand why.)

Given such past credentials, I was all ready and anxious to start reading U.S.S. Seawolf: Hurrah! Another occasion to make fun of Robinson’s right-wing raaah-America screw-international-relations politics! Another sorry attempt at “plotting”! Another set of unlikable cardboard characters! Another book packed with clunky exposition! Whee!

Imagine my surprise when I started thinking that U.S.S. Seawolf wasn’t actually half-bad.

Don’t make any mistake; it’s still not a very good techno-thriller. But as compared to his other three books, it actually holds up a lot better.

For one thing, there is a plot of sorts that goes beyond the sort of sloppy “let’s destroy foreign submarines” excuse passed off in Kilo Class. This time around, an American submarine (the titular Seawolf) doing stupid things off China’s coastal waters is accidentally damaged by the Chinese navy, captured and dragged to a Chinese port. It’s an eerie scenario, especially given how, in early 2001, an American plane doing stupid things off China’s coastal waters was accidentally damaged by the Chinese Air Force, captured and dragged to a Chinese airport. (Ooooh.) From then on, the Americans implement a rescue mission, which is implemented with the usual thrilling amount of difficulty. It’s not Shakespeare, but it works rather well. For one thing, U.S.S. Seawolf avoids the lengthy useless stretches of, say, H.M.S. Unseen.

One annoyance left intact from Robinson’s earlier novel is his casual disregard for the niceties of diplomatic intervention. As a true Republican believer in the Bush doctrine, Robinson’s novels are packed with preemptive (and excessive) strikes against foreign targets, usually resulting in a staggering number of civilian deaths that are shrugged away with choice racial epithets. Here, it’s not a hydro-electrical dam in Iraq (U.S.S. Nimitz) or a number of Chinese submarines (Kilo Class) but the intentional meltdown of a nuclear reactor, leading to entire blocks of a Chinese city being showered with radioactive slag. Thoughtful. Given the number of offencive racial slurs used by Robinson’s so-called protagonists, maybe we shouldn’t be surprised if his next novel features a warship manned by members of the Aryan Nation.

Moving on… Robinson usually has some trouble ending his novel, but here again U.S.S. Seawolf manages to be only slightly better than the rest of his usual crap: After a triumphant rescue in which most members of the submarine are rescued, ugly politics intrude thanks to a no-good son-of-a-politician and a protagonist ends up killing himself. Whee, what fun! But have no fear, because series superhero Arnold Morgan, in between chewing cigars, spitting at presidents, planning genocide, insulting countries and boinking his sexy secretary (whose characterization seems taken from Playmate profiles), decides that he can’t have that and tenders in his resignation. Or something like that. Read the rest in the next thrilling instalment. I might have cared had it been even a mediocre book.

Wait! Wait! Did I say that U.S.S. Seawolf was better than Robinson’s other novels? What was I thinking? Was it the deliciously ambiguous portrait of an incompetent military officer? The rather good SEAL-team operational details? Or momentary delusion brought about by disbelief? Goodness gracious! It is as bad as his other novels! Hurrah! Bring on the fifth one! Patrick Robinson; I love to hate your stuff! More, please!

H.M.S. Unseen, Patrick Robinson

Harper, 1999, 526 pages, C$9.99 mmpb, ISBN 0-06-109801-9

There are times where I seriously wonder if reading more than 170 books a year is somehow rotting my mind. Why else to explain peculiar attachment to authors I don’t care about? H.M.S. Unseen is Patrick Robinson’s third novel and freakishly obsessive readers of my reviews will remember that I haven’t liked either Nimitz Class or Kilo Class very much. Robinson writes badly, has no gift for effective characterization, doesn’t know how to structure his stories and has a rather curious sense of global geopolitics. I might have picked up H.M.S. Unseen with the hope that he has improved, but he really hasn’t.

The story is a loose follow-up to Nimitz Class in that the terribly anticlimactic death of the first novel’s antagonist is revealed to be the sham we suspected all along. Ben Adnam is back in action, but maybe not as smoothly as he wants to: The first few dozen pages of H.M.S. Unseen describe how the Iraqi government decides to get rid of their most troublesome agent, and how Adman escapes through marshes and deserts to join Iran’s government. His proposition? To exact revenge, he will frame Iraq for a series of devastating terrorist attacks.

I’d say “so far so good” if it was the case, but it isn’t. Early on, all of Robinson’s usual faults come back to haunt us. He can’t write. Still. Clumsy exposition drowns out dialogue to such an extent that there isn’t any dialogue left. His sense of dramatic structure is shaky at best; events happen out of nowhere without preparation and then he’ll spend dozens of pages on the most insignificant details before kicking the plot in an entirely different direction again. The downing of the experimental plane is a perfect case in point; what could have been milked for drama simply becomes another plot point without too much importance. But, oh, Adnam’s Scottish escape becomes a marathon of tiny details we couldn’t possibly care about, given that we know he will do it.

After three connected novels, I still can’t care about one single character in Robinson’s oeuvre. He tries to make an antihero of his terrorist villain, but it comes across as just… insipid. Late in the book, he tried to make me pity the antagonist (aw, looove… and it just so happens that the girl is now married to the protagonist of the first two novels!), but my only wish remained for the bad guy to irrevocably die so that I could move on to other things.

More and more, it looks like Robinson simply has no clue about what makes a good technothriller, whether it’s the tiny (oh; the writing, maybe?) or the grand. On an overarching level, I just can’t believe in what Robinson does. Late in HMS Unseen, for instance, Adman encourages the United States to destroy -with cruise missiles!- a large dam in Iraq, killing thousands of civilians, setting back Iraq a few decades in hydro-electrical capacity and, oh, provoking a major international incident in the process. (The characters pooh-pooh such objections as “we’ll be caught!”) Utterly unbelievable, especially in a context where the States are already being unjustly blamed for “hundred of children dying every day because of sanctions”. Now imagine actually destroying a dam. I was practically screaming at the novel “No, you moron! Leave the civilian targets alone!” No such luck.

The structure of the novel is even more insipid, bouncing from situation to situation without a sense of heightened stakes. The final few pages are emblematic of the problem, as the villain is dispatched almost with a yawn and a wave of the hand. Almost as if by then, Robinson hated his novel as much as I did.

Still, you got to hand it to the guy. To be able to publish three awful novels in a row (and to get me to read’em) takes a special skill. You know what? I’m almost certain I’ll read his fourth. I might spend my time cursing at it and muttering dark promises of retribution, but at least it’ll be more entertaining than reading, say, yet another dull and tired Dale Brown B-52 fantasy.

Egad. Maybe I am brain-damaged after all.

Kilo Class, Patrick Robinson

Harper Collins, 1998, 442 pages, C$35.50 hc, ISBN 0-06-019129-5

In the Science-Fiction community, there is a certain prejudice about the so called “Hard-SF” segment of the genre, which is the epitome of scientific exactitude in SF. This concern has led critics to charge that the genre consistently privileged scientific content (ie; the “Science” in “SF”) over such niceties as characters, plotting or writing style. (“Fiction” in “SF”)

Amusingly, this debate also takes place outside the genre of SF. In the category of thrillers, for instance, you’ve got the same division. On one side, these fairly generic writers content to churn out pulpish book after another about spies, war and conspiracies. On the other, these authors who take great pain into researching the hardware, the politics, the procedures. Ludlum, Follett and Le Carre versus Clancy, Coonts and Coyle.

Patrick Robinson made a certain splash in the thriller audience last year with the release of Nimitz Class, a novel that begins with the nuclear vaporization of a Nimitz-class aircraft carrier.

In my previous review of Nimitz Class, (“starts promisingly enough… a few characters are efficiently set up… then the novel goes awry… goes on an unexpected direction… then on another tangent… very anticlimactic… unconvincing romantic thread… odd bits of exposition in dialogue… barely worth a library loan. In paperback.”) I was disappointed by the lack of plotting skill, the laughable romance and the useless detours. The faults were made worse by what is unarguably a fairly strong first third.

Kilo Class is more even, but overall a weaker entry than its predecessor. The plot is of a laughable simplicity: China has bought ten submarines from Russia. The United States doesn’t want China to receive these subs, so they do everything they can to destroy them.

Gimmicky; given that two subs are already in safe haven at the beginning of the novel and that this is pretty much everything the good ole’ USA will tolerate, you can bet that the novel won’t stop until most of the submarines are destroyed.

Most of Kilo Class, then, is like watching one (or several) car (or sub) accident happening. These dastardly americans hatch their plot, then send their best elements to execute them. Most of the time, they succeed. Since Robinson is a “hard-thriller” writer, he lays on the details pretty thick. We’re not only told that SEALs have blown up a submarine, but we also get fully fifty pages of preparations plus a twenty-page investigation by the bad guys. The result is almost interminable.

Unlike Nimitz Class, Kilo Class becomes more focused as the story evolves, and while most readers will find themselves asking why they’re reading the first half of the book, the last hundred pages are a lot more fun. But it’s an uphill battle until then.

Robinson’s weak characterisation (don’t plan on making any friends in this book) and suspicious plotting (what was it with the Kerguelen Islands?) make things difficult for anyone else but a dedicated techno-thriller buff. Fortunately, bits and pieces of interest spice up the going, like a tremendously exciting description of three submarines’ demise.

Of a most serious nature is the ludicrousness of the main premise. The United States risking war, attacking enemy ships under no clear and present threat? I don’t think so, and the afterword didn’t convince me.

Summing up: Mixed reactions toward Kilo Class. It’s definitely not worth the $35.50C. for the hardcover. In fact, I’m not even sure it’s worth a library loan. Nimitz Class fans might want to read it to find out what happened to Bill Baldridge (it’s a loose sequel to Nimitz Class), but beyond that… Summer 1998 has too many good new books by established techno-thriller authors (Bond, Brown, Coonts… even Clancy!) to waste on Kilo Class, a decidedly average entry in the genre.

Nimitz Class, Patrick Robinson

Harper Collins, 1997, 411 pages, C$35.50 hc, ISBN 0-06-018755-7

Have you ever bitten in a tasty apple, only to discover that it was rotten at the core? How about at book that degenerates as it goes on? Michael Crichton’s Sphere is one of those rotten apples, beginning with a competent SF mystery, continuing with a good underwater thriller, but ending with a deus ex machina too insulting to even contemplate again. (And so they decided it was all a dream! And soon to be a movie!)

With Nimitz Class never approaches the stinky depths at which Sphere sank, it remains that the sum of the novel doesn’t fulfil the promise of the first two hundred pages.

It starts promisingly enough, with a good, ominous description of one of the most formidable war machine ever built: A Nimitz-class aircraft carrier. A few characters are efficiently set up… but then the rug is pulled from under out feet: Before the second chapter is over, all the aforementioned characters are vaporized, along with the carrier. A tad over 6,000 deaths. Accidental nuclear explosion, or deliberate attack?

Enters Bill Baldridge, nuclear engineer. His brother Jack was on the carrier when it was destroyed, and Bill doesn’t quite think it was accidental. The hunt for the culprits begins.

As mentioned, the first two hundred pages of Nimitz Class are first-rate military fiction. The plot is developed nicely, and Bill Baldridge is sufficiently different from the usual military hero to be interesting. Author Robinson takes us places we couldn’t otherwise visit: In this case, the British submarine base where the Perisher course is given.

But then the novel goes awry.

Just as Baldridge begins to have a clear idea of who could possibly sink the carrier, the narrative goes on an unexpected direction. This fifty-page detour would have been interesting (and is at times very spectacular) if it would have been integrated in the fabric of the plot. But it’s not, or not enough. Then the novel goes on another tangent. Another exciting scene follows. Then, as things finally seem to pull in together, when our heroes are about to piece up the mystery and find out where the evil terrorist is hiding… They get an anonymous tip, follow the tip and blow up the bad guys.

Very anticlimactic. Add to this an unconvincing romantic thread and the result is a novel that’s more than a little disappointing. I’ve rarely seen an author lose control of a plot so much: Come on, I don’t want a man-to-man fight between the hero and the antagonist, but at least give me a satisfying finish! Cut the SEAL action, crop the channel scene, give the hero a believable romantic interest, but sheesh…

Technically, the prose is okay despite more than a few odd bits of exposition in dialogue. Robinson loves to have his characters talk in multiple paragraphs. (At random: Page 114… same page which contains my favourite excerpt of the book: “Sh*t”, said the President. (after three paragraphs of exposition. The following two paragraphs are more exposition, and then: “J*s*s Chr*st”, said the President. Pop quiz: Is the President under stress?) Okay, so I have low thresholds for favourite exerts.)

Nimitz Class’s faults are even more disappointing in that they torpedo (ha-ha) what could have otherwise been an exceptional military thriller. As it stands now, Nimitz Class is barely worth a library loan. In paperback.