Stuart M. Van Tine,
A Fine and Private War
(Writer's Showcase, 2000)

A Fine and Private Waris packed with action from the get-go. It is a fast-paced book and one heck of a read. Stuart M. Van Tine has done a wonderful job.

The book is packed with action, starting with a test flight to prepare for an ill-fated attempt to rescue some hostages in Tehran and ending with another flight that's not a test. It is a war story of sorts and any doubts I have about its potential reality come now. It is not so much that I doubt that the technology would do what they say, I'm just not sure the people would. In any case, those questions really only come into play towards the end of the story.

I guess the best way to approach this book is not to expect it to be too real. It might be escapist, but it is good escapism and it pulls you along. There is the occasional rabbit being pulled from a hat you know has no bottom. Pieces get moved into place and then left alone 'til all of a sudden they come into play again at the crucial moment. (No, I am not giving you an example. Well, I could give you one but then you would get mad because it would never happen. Or not in this book, which amounts to the same thing.) And you get to watch it all unfold without the characters telling you everything they are going to do before it happens.

There are four main characters who are involved one way or the other in the various conflicts that occur. Their interaction also drives the story almost as much as the action does. First there is George Holbrook; he has participated in rescue missions before, but this time he has to lead a bunch of civilians into combat against terrorists. Not exactly even odds, so he does not plan on fighting on even terms. Next is his partner, Suvia Ferris. She knows Holbrook, she knows what he has done in the past and is sometimes shocked by what he says he might do. Up against them is Jinnah, a terrorist who is both cruel and clever. He may not show up throughout the book, but even when he is not there, his presence is felt one way or another. And lastly there is Bill Christmann of the CIA. He, too, becomes important in his own way.

All of the characters are believable. They sometimes end up taking the harder route to doing things, because they do not like the other choice.

All in all, A Fine and Private War is a mighty fine read. You might not see new depths to the human soul, but it will keep you entertained and that alone makes it worth the read.

[ by Paul de Bruijn ]
Rambles: 20 August 2001

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