Thursday, October 2, 2014

Unmanned by Dan Fesperman

Not very long ago, Darwin Cole was an F-16 fighter pilot. He was a family man. He was on top of the world. Now? He’s a washout drunk with a dishonorable discharge from the U.S. Air Force, living alone in the Nevada desert and haunted by an image beamed from one of his last missions as a “pilot” of a Predator drone—a harrowing shot of an Afghan child running for her life.

When Cole is approached by three journalists trying to uncover the identity of the possibly rogue intelligence operative who called the shots in Cole’s ill-fated mission, Cole reluctantly agrees to team up with them.

But in our surveillance culture, even the well intentioned are liable to find themselves under scrutiny, running for their lives, especially when the trail they’re following leads to the very heart of that culture—in intelligence, in the military, and among the unchecked private contractors who stand to profit richly from the advancing technology . . . not merely for use “over there,” but for right here, right now.

This latest offering by Dan Fesperman is a timely look at the ethics and possibilities of expanded drone warfare. The narrative pace is good but I wasn't as engaged by the characters as I normally am in a Fesperman book. The journalists especially seemed poorly drawn with nowhere near enough information about their backgrounds and motivations to make me feel invested in their story. Cole was a very strong character, and both Sharpe and the AF investigator looking for Cole are wonderful characters even though they only appear briefly. I certainly thought the journalists were very inept and poor at their jobs which rather undercut their involvement in this plot. All in all a good read, though I recommend The Double Game as a better example of Fesperman's talent.

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