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A Deeper Blue (The Ghost) by John Ringo
Cover Artist: Kurt Miller
Review by Ernest Lilley
Baen Hardcover  ISBN/ITEM#: 9781416521280
Date: 03 July 2007 List Price $26.00 Amazon US / Amazon UK

Links: 2000 Author interview / Ringo's First Book: A Hymn Before Battle / Show Official Info /

Baen is billing John Ringo's "Ghost" series as Techno-Thriller, probably because because "Politically incorrect-mercenary military adventure novel with more guns girls and gadgets than you can count" is just too long to put on the spine. This time the retired Navy Seal comes in from the cold to where it's warm, specifically the Bahamas, to stop an Al-Qaeda plot to bring nerve gas into the US for a major terrorist strike. Ringo's writing is still laced with R rated sex and violence, but either I'm getting used to it or he's toned it down a bit in this book, alluding to more sex and torture than wallowing in it. That's good, because if you're looking for a beach read with good guys doing bad things to people who deserve it, fast boats, fast women Heinlein would have approved of, and an endless arsenal of high tech military assets...head for they keys with the Kildar and his crew.

More by John Ringo:
Gust Front (Posleen War Series #2) (April 2001)
Hell's Fire (May 2003)
Into the Looking Glass (May 2005)
Yellow Eyes (July 2005)
Princess of Wands (Jan. 2006)
East of the Sun and West of the Moon (May 2006)
Choosers of the Slain (Paladin of Shadows, Book 3) (Aug 2006)

John Ringo's flawed Techno-Thriller hero, "Mike Jenkins" who was once a Navy seal known as "Ghost," and is now the leader of a tribe of fighters somewhere in Chechnya, is about to come in from the cold to the warm waters off the coast of Florida to stop Al-Qaeda from turning the happiest place on Earth into the deadliest. Kildar is what Bond would have been with a massive budget, a fighting force of several hundred fanatically loyal mountain fighters, and even less government interference than 007 managed. Which is to say, he's a lot of fun for anyone who likes adrenalin in their fiction.

Over the first three books in the series Mike went from being a retired Seal with time on his hands to being the head of a clan with blood and beer on them. Though he's an inhumanly efficient killing machine and now the absolute ruler of a tribe of misplace Nordic types descended from vikings with a broken compass, his Achilles heel is that while he's "crunchy on the outside, he's got a soft center" and on the last mission he lost someone close to him, putting him into a blue funk. Unfortunately his tribe is also the source of a really excellent beer, not to mention that they get fabulously well paid for stepping into hot spots governments can't touch and cooling them off quickly, so he could stay in his study and drink himself to death all day. Every day. For the rest of eternity.

The fact that the President (that would be the US President) needs him to stop drums of VX nerve gas from coming into the country barely dents his dementia, but at least he let's his second-in-command take a team to Florida to give the Feds a much needed hand, one unencumbered by law or liberals. Unfortunately for the team, it turns out that they've walked right into a trap set for the Kildar himself, and it's a pretty good trap too...so there are enough losses to shake Mike out of his funk and into action. Mike is one of those people you really don't want to make mad. As he keeps telling people, though they keep not believing him, he's not a nice man, but one who is barely keeping an internal beast at bay, and when you do things to his friends, he's more than happy to unleash his hounds of war.

What follows is non-stop high speed action that Tom Clancy only wishes he could get away with writing. Ringo has the special ops chops to know what he's talking about, he's clearly on a crusade about the liberalization of law enforcement (he regards it as bad, oh...you got that already) and we expect he's working some personal issues out in his writing we'd just as soon not know about. But it makes for more sex and violence (sometimes together) than is probably good for anyone. Fortunately, or unfortunately, he's such a damn good writer that once you pick up one of his books it has a tendency to stick to your hands like superglue until the last bad guy has been killed, the last beer has been drunk, the last terrorist plot has been foiled, and the last beautiful babe been, um rescued.

One of the things that a series going into it's fourth book can do is to bring in characters that figured minimally in an early work, but have now grown and can become a major character themselves. Such is Lt. Britney Harder, SOCOM, who we last saw as a kidnapped coed being done pretty horrible things to, though she rallied nicely when Mike showed up to save her and the other girls that had been taken by terrorists. Though Britney still has the mental scars from her ordeal, she's moved on from college and is now in Army intel, working out a few issues of her own. The two characters back stories dovetail nicely, and we get to watch them zoom around Orlando at full bore in a Ford GT in the process. If that doesn't sound like fun, this is the wrong book for you.

I really appreciate that Ringo has throttled back the kinky sex, which now happens more off stage than on, and less with Kildar at the center. You may think that the rest of the world judges us harshly for our domestic taste in blonds in bikinis, Ringo isn't much impressed. He knows that Baywatch is one of the number one shows watched globally, even now, and I'm pretty sure he's a believer that attractiveness is just evolution's way of making sure survival traits get passed on to the next generation.

I made the mistake (because I've got SF that needs reviewing for the next issue) of picking up A Deeper Blue and I can't say I really regret the handful of hours that it mysteriously disappeared from my life. I fully expect, and hope that the author is having as much fun researching and writing these books as I think he is, and only hope he finds time to keep up with his mil-sf series (The Posleen War) standalones (Into the Looking Glass, Von Neuman's War, and more), and some excellent work with Keith Laumer's Bolos series (The Road to Damascus (The Bolo Series)) as well. Not to mention the collaborations. Well, I'm sure we'll be hearing more from John Ringo, and I'm just as sure the Kildar isn't done yet...so I can look forward to more "missing time" in my future.

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