Ken Carodine,
All the Tea
(Timberwolf, 2000)

It is the dawn of the new millennium. Scientists from Japan and the United States have secretly been working on a viable nuclear fusion reactor for the past several years. When Chinese spies learn about Project Blue Flame and discover that the research center is sitting practically in their own backyard, the Chinese authorities decide to take this technology for themselves -- by force, if necessary. China has long desired to supersede the U.S. as the world's dominant superpower. Obtaining information on this new power (and ultimately weapons) source would definitely be a step in that direction.

This eight-hour thriller starts off with a detailed description of how the Chinese spy network operates and how information on Project Blue Flame was gathered. The extent of this spy network is intriguing and makes you wonder how close to reality it might be.

As the story proceeds, we are introduced to the two main characters -- Commander Ben McGuire and Dr. Marcia Hobson. When the U.S. president determines the project is compromised, he orders Hobson to shut down the facility she heads. When intelligence data further indicates that a well-equipped Chinese fleet is heading towards the small, remote Japanese-owned island on which Project Blue Flame resides, McGuire and a small SEAL team are dispatched to speed up the shutdown and evacuate the civilians.

That sounds simple enough. However, author Ken Carodine throws some more dilemmas into the mix. A tropical storm is approaching the island from a direction that prevents the U.S. and Japanese forces from being able to protect it. At the same time, someone on the island is sabotaging equipment and the ability of the scientists to shutdown the fusion reactor. Apparently you can't simply shut a nuclear reactor down as quickly as your computer. Also apparent is that the Chinese must be working with someone on the island.

Will the Chinese take what they want? Will Hobson and her team shut down the reactor before a nuclear disaster occurs? Will the island's saboteur be discovered? Will Desert Storm combat-veteran McGuire save the day? Will the reason this story is titled All the Tea ever become apparent? I guess you will have to listen to it if you want to find out. Although, as a spoiler, I will let you know that the title comes from a common phrase McGuire says towards the end of the story.

All the Tea is no Tom Clancy novel. (If it was, it would be about four times as long, at least.) This is still a pretty decent tale, however. The ideas are somewhat plausible. In recent history, the U.S. and China have squared off over a collision between a Chinese jet and a U.S. spy plane, the sale of arms to Taiwan and the bombing of a Chinese embassy. The tension between the two countries is real. While I still hardly know the difference between nuclear fusion and nuclear fission, Ken explains enough to allow me to believe that the reactor described in the story is both smaller and safer than modern nuclear facilities. The creation of this power source would be a boon to any power-starved nation and could easily be seen as a potential reason to risk a war.

Walter Koenig (of Star Trek fame) narrates All the Tea with a cast of more than 12 actors. He is an excellent narrator. Most of the acting is quite good although a few minor voices are not quite up to par. For example, the president and Hobson's boss both sound like newscasters instead of men in political power. I also thought there were a few unbelievable moments, such as when Hobson's son was allowed to accompany her to a "secret" project site. In the scheme of things, however, all my little nitpicking does not detract from the fact that this is decent entertainment -- not reality.

When I finished All the Tea, I thought is was worth my time. I could actually see this translated to the big screen someday with Wesley Snipes and Angela Bassett in the lead roles. But until then, hearing it on CD is enjoyable in itself.

[ by Wil Owen ]

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