Review – Starfire by Dale Brown

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~ Synopsis ~

New York Times bestselling author Dale Brown—“the best military writer in the country” (Clive Cussler)—is back with Starfire,  a masterful military thriller that explores a future all too possible and all too close: the weaponization of space.

With the death of his heroic father, bomber and space warfare veteran Patrick McLanahan, Bradley McLanahan must now fly solo, leading a team of young engineers designing Starfire, the world’s first orbiting solar power plant.

Starfire will not only deliver unlimited and inexpensive electricity anywhere on planet Earth, it can also transmit power to the moon, and even to spacecraft and asteroids. It’s a crucial first step in the exploration of the solar system, and Bradley and his team are on the cutting edge.

But U.S. president Kenneth Phoenix’s plans to militarize and industrialize Earth’s orbit sparks an arms race in space that eclipses the darkest and most terrifying days of the Cold War. Before he can prevent it, Bradley and his team are caught at the center of a battle that threatens to become an all-out global conflict for control of space.

~ Guest Review by Daniel Pratt ~

My name is Dan Pratt and I thrilled to have been invited as a guest reviewer by Angela. I am a fan of techno-thrillers, military aerospace, and space exploration. I also have some (VERY minor) technical expertise in these areas. I am also no stranger to Dale Brown’s storytelling. In fact, the very first book that I bought with my own money and read purely for the enjoyment of reading was “Flight of the Old Dog.” That novel introduced a cast of characters that have progressed and evolved over the last 20+ years and 20+ books—creating a parallel, but very similar world to the one that exists in 2014, the setting for “Starfire.”

This is the story of Bradley McLanahan, a mediocre undergrad student in the aerospace engineering program at Cal Poly University. Brad and his team of students have taken on an ambitious project related to the collection and transmission of solar power from space down to earth. Much of their success seems tied to McLanahan’s connections, which are mainly rooted in his father, Patrick’s military and civilian career. General Patrick McLanahan is Brown’s most prolific character, and the central figure in the series. Avoiding spoilers, there is espionage, combat, personal conflict and some agonizingly accurate political and bureaucratic gamesmanship by a cast of U.S. and foreign leaders.

What remains are the two signatures of a Dale Brown novel. There is suspense and story development that builds steadily into a thrilling page-turner, and exiting technology that is at (or tantalizingly just beyond) the cutting edge. The technology can be intimidating, but Brown is well-practiced at explaining things without getting buried in the details. He even includes a cast and glossary in the front of the book for reference.I suspect that I will make many trips to Google in search of more information on some of the interesting technologies that I was introduced to in “Starfire”.

The only criticism I have is that projects and technologies are developing much faster in Brown’s world than they are in the world full of red tape that we live in. I suppose that’s the point, though.  As a teenager reading “Flight of the Old Dog,” I was spoiled by what could be, and disappointed in what was.  As details surfaced about “black” projects from the Cold War, I remember feeling ripped off because there were no space lasers or secret spaceplanes. That is my fantasy world—a world for people who aren’t ready for elves or sparkling teenage vampires.

“Starfire” is an exciting, easy read—and a good techno-military thriller. Having not read any books in the series for some time, the book stands well on its own, and I suspect ties in well to the preceding ones. The end of the Cold War and shift to fighting insurgencies on the ground put quite a dent in this genre, but it’s nice to see that Dale Brown is still on his game. I give “Starfire” 4 books.

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