The following book review is a special for BlackFive readers provided by Elise Cooper. You can read all of our book reviews and author interviews by clicking on the Books category link on the right sidebar.
Shadow War is the debut novel by Sean McFate. Unlike other thrillers involving geo-politics this does not have a covert organization sanctioned and working secretly with those in the US government. This Tom Locke series involves an organization that hires private contractors/mercenaries to complete missions. The many characters do not do it for love of country, but are “for-profit warriors.”
McFate hopes readers will learn more about contractors. “I wanted to give them a real face. They are human beings who are not stock villains and do have a warrior ethos. I wanted to shed light on these new types of warriors. I think they will be used more and more because they allow for plausible deniability, are cheaper, and can provide manpower. They are a way for administrations to have a lack of transparency, oversight, and accountability. For example we have 3500 troops on the ground in Iraq, but 7000 contractors. Remember Senator Obama proposed legislation against private military contractors that President Obama has not touched. Those in the arena are doing their best given limited time and information and have to work under terrible circumstances. General McChrystal understood this and was the best military commander I had the privilege to work with. He is the real deal. He will go to hell and back with his troops.”
The main character, Tom Locke, is based on McFate’s own experiences. Both served in the 82nd Airborne division of the United States Army as paratroopers, and later worked as a private military contractors. This allows McFate to create stories with realism and authenticity that encompass deceit, corruption, and wars fought both by “soldiers” on the battlefield and by men wearing suits behind closed doors.
McFate drew all the characters from people he knew. He stated to blackfive.net, “Locke is a lot like me although more damaged and bad assed. His best friend Miles was an actual person, modeled after my platoon sergeant and was like an older brother to me. Locke and I served in the 82nd Airborne division of the United States Army as paratroopers from 1992 - 2000, and later worked as private military contractors. Locke is still a contractor while I am now a professor at Georgetown University, a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council and associate professor at National Defense. The differences are I did not have the actual mission assigned to Locke in the Ukraine, but we both worked on stopping genocides, arms deals, and went after African warlords. Locke’s boss Brad Winters is a composite of two to three people. As he is portrayed in the book, the bosses are extremely smart, Machiavellian, shrewd, very ambitious, who work for their own interests without any scruples.”
This captivating plot has terrifying power plays and treachery that can tip the balance of power towards Russia’s Putin. Apollo Outcomes, one of the world’s most successful private contracting firms, assigns Locke a dangerous mission. He has one week to rescue a Ukraine wealthy businessman’s family, and lead an assault on Russian forces to place that rich oligarch in a position of influence and leadership. With a team of highly trained mercenaries and careful planning it appears he will accomplish the mission. Getting in the way of success is Alie Macfarlane, an old love who stumbles, unluckily, back into his life at the very worst time imaginable and his boss, Brad Winters, is engaged in a secretive, high-stakes geopolitical chess game with influential power brokers in capitals around the world.
The author sees Putin as a threat to the US and wrote this as a preview of what could happen. “In future years the rise of nationalism will allow Putin to move into Eastern Europe through shadow wars. Remember he thought the worst event of the 20th Century was the dismantlement of the Soviet Union. He has a Czarist ambition for Eastern Europe. This plot shows how he might do it. In this Internet age someone like Putin will take over a country, not like the Soviets did, but through disruption and installing a puppet to rule. It is done with massive propaganda, Internet trolls, proxy militia, mercenaries, and “Little Green Men,” Russian soldiers without Russian insignia on their fatigues. Putin understands America will probably not risk World War III over Article 5 of NATO.”
Shadow War is a gripping believable story filled with suspense and intrigue. Readers will learn about the shadowy covert world of private contractors/mercenaries and how wars might be fought in the future. The grittiness of the main character, Tom Locke, adds to the plotline. Anyone looking for a different type of thriller should put this book on their radar. Readers will look forward to the future adventures of Locke.