The Bottom Line: With Act of War, Brad Thor has taken over the throne left vacant by Tom Clancy as the undisputed king of the military thriller. For military hardware geeks, Act of War delivers an entirely new level of bliss, with descriptions of technology and their uses that thunder off the page. Strap in for a fun-filled ride.
The early chapters of Brad Thor’s new book, Act of War, set the stage for a chess match between American politicians, strategists and operatives against their threatening new enemy. China has come to the conclusion that war with the U.S. is inevitable, and should be met on a battlefield without rules or boundaries. The threat is made all the more real by the death of a CIA operative whose asset has stumbled across a plot for a devastating new attack.
Two operations are put in motion. Code-named “Gold Dust” and “Blackbird,” they are shrouded in absolute secrecy as either of them, if discovered, will constitute an act of war.
Virtually every chapter of Act of War features incredible hardware, including a sort of vehicle entrapment device that is effectively compared to Spiderman’s webs, and a new landing craft that delivers American operatives onto the shores of North Korea.
The book’s only downside is Thor’s longtime protagonist, counterterrorism operative Scot Harvath. To be clear, you can’t argue with success, and I’m not typically bothered by Harvath, although I consider him one of the more one-dimensional characters in American fiction. Harvath is a killing machine that is seemingly incapable of feeling anything but patriotism, and in the context of the situations he’s put in, that mostly works. In Act of War, however, he’s something of a walking contradiction. In one chapter, we’re privy to Harvath’s thoughts as he states that America is great because it values human life, and for that reason, Americans don’t torture, or kill innocent civilians. The very next thing Harvath does is torture a terrorist (repeatedly bringing him close to drowning), and then threaten to torture and kill every member of his family, including women and children. In a war without rules, that seems fair, except that Harvath himself is set up to be above that sort of behavior.
With that said, Act of War is solid, thought-providing entertainment. Get it.