Thriller fun fact. In the parlance of those who work in this area, when someone has been attacked using a drone he is said to have been “droned.” As in, “Last week we droned five Tangos in a pickup truck.”
As noted in Thriller Guy’s last entry, he has received a bunch of drone-themed thrillers to review recently, so many that TG is now declaring this an official sub-genre of the military adventure thriller. As TG has said, drones are cool, so it has not yet grown boring to read the various directions that writers are taking, but once the basics are covered, unless an author comes up with a new take on what has become familiar material then they’re surely going to get a lesser review than they would if they came up with something novel. This is the case in other sub-genres, i.e. Da Vinci code knockoffs and the suitcase nuke sub genre that TG has complained about on these pages before.
The three most recent drone books are, Sting of the Drone, by Richard Clark, Drone by Mike Maden, and Drone Strike by Dale Brown and Jim DeFelice. All three of these books were very good and very different and TG recommends all of them to readers who like the military/adventure genre.
Drone, by Maden, is obviously the first out of the gate and as such snagged the one word title. Promised as the first of a series, his hero Troy Pierce heads up a business, Pearce Systems, that specializes in drones that travel not just in the air, but on land and in and under the sea. Maden’s plot has Pearce using his drones against a Mexican cartel with the aim of eliminating the drug trade between Mexico and the US once and for all. It’s a great, original concept and readers will leave the last page thinking, why doesn’t our government do something like this? Well, there are lots of reasons, but maybe sometime in the future…
Dale Brown, the author of Drone Strike, has been in the business of aviation thrillers for a long time and his easy expertise shows in all of his various series. His co-author, Defelice has become the go-to co-author in the thriller writing business and his name shows up on many famous-name books. TG thinks he’s one of the best in the business and most any book he’s involved with is going to be good. These guys have come up with the coolest drones, nano-UAVs dubbed Hydras which are the size of “a cheap desk calculator” and shaped like “a cross between lawn darts and studies for a video game.” They drop down in swarms out of mother-drones and zip around and hover on command from “pilots” far away in trailers in the desert. The gambit here is an attack, in conjunction with a Delta Force team, on an Iranian underground nuclear facility. Things go well for a while, then everything goes “pear shaped” as the British say.
The last of the three, Richard Clark’s Sting of the Drone, is arguably the best of them, at least in being very comprehensive in all areas involved. Once a Kill Call to Washington establishes that a High Value Individual (HVI) is a threat to America the pilots and analysts at the Global Coordination Center at the Creech Air Force Base in Nevada go about setting up a mission to take out that HVI. They have many successes (the drone effort is far more extensive than civilians know) but eventually a very smart al-Qaeda terrorist decides to take revenge on the drones and their operators. This back-and-forth duel as the terrorists find ways to outwit the drones, is fascinating. TG has praised Clark’s thrillers before, and here he brings a solid knowledge of what really goes on with the men and women who call the shots on who gets droned and on the men and women who fly the UAVs and undertake the missions. TG read this one with his mouth hanging open. Outstanding.
After writing those three mini-reviews, TG feels ready and willing to read any new efforts that writers are beavering away on out there. Bring ‘em on.
A recent email conversation with Thriller Guy reader Joel Lovell turned up an interesting post from him. Joel is working on his own thriller that features, among other elements, drones, and here’s what he had to say…
“The more I've thought about what hobbyist drones could do, the more I'm convinced that society is going to be dealing with some real problems very soon. I mean, what if you are a jewelry storeowner, for example, and a drone shoots out your front window, flies in, and a voice states, "Interfere with this drone and it will explode. Ignore what I say and you will be shot. Fill the bag with diamonds, now."
"With the fuel powered mini-helicopter drones (which China is building and selling already weaponized) even more audacious crimes could be committed. Sure, they can be taken out easily, but if they threaten to explode or release a poison spray or - what if four or five MAC-10 mounted drones come swarming in?
"An assassin could easily have any number of drones with a laser aimed firearm mounted, or have one fly over a driving car and set down the home grown equivalent of a magnetically attached claymore mine on the roof of the vehicle and set it off. (With the noise and sad lack of security cameras able to track and differentiate at night - someone could do this right now to a commercial airliner while it sits at the gate - a drone could fly right over it, set down, leave a 'package' and then fly away. Once it's airborne, that's it for the airliner.)
"Then there are the underwater and surface water models...when fuel cell technology (already being used in beta by one manufacturer to produce 8 hour flight times) it is conceivable that a small fleet of smuggling devices could swarm in undetected along any deserted stretch of shore along any coastal area. Things that small are simply not going to be spotted or detected. They wouldn't even have to go that far - if deployed right from international waters they have reduced their risks considerably. Cartels are killing each other over the few 'remaining' routes they have. I'm astonished that they have not thought about using technology this way already.
The above things I've described I've researched carefully, the technical capabilities are there and ability to stop them is not.”
Hmmm. Thanks, Joel. Scary.