Review: “Red Metal” by Mark Greaney

Red Metal by Mark Greaney and Lt. Col. H. Ripley Rawlings, IV, USMC. Berkley Books. 638 pages.

I happened to pick this book up at my friendly neighborhood library last weekend, and since it was in the seven-day loan area, I hustled through reading its 638 pages in six days. Fortunately, it was a fast read, which translates as: this was a pretty entertaining book.

Here’s the Amazon description:

A desperate Kremlin takes advantage of a military crisis in Asia to simultaneously strike into Western Europe and invade east Africa in a bid to occupy three Rare Earth mineral mines that will give Russia unprecedented control for generations over the world’s hi-tech sector.

Pitted against the Russians are a Marine lieutenant colonel pulled out of a cushy job at the Pentagon and thrown into the fray in Africa, a French Special Forces captain and his intelligence operative father, a young Polish female partisan fighter, an A-10 Warthog pilot, and the commander of an American tank platoon who, along with his German counterpart, fight from behind enemy lines in Germany all the way into Russia.

From a daring MiG attack on American satellites, through land and air battles in all theaters, naval battles in the Arabian sea, and small unit fighting down to the hand-to-hand level in the jungle, Russia’s forces battle to either take the mines or detonate a nuclear device to prevent the West from exploiting them.

Some of the other promotional text talks about “a startlingly realistic look at World War III,” but that’s a bit misleading, since I never get the sense that’s where the book was headed. It was fun, entertaining, and had a lot going for it. Like many books of this genre, and considering that we’re talking about stuff happening on four continents, it involves many, many characters. So it doesn’t linger on one central character for long. Translation: this isn’t a book about how people change through difficulties.

I found one particular thing I disliked about the book, and another that I liked.

The famous quote from Helmuth von Moltke goes: “No battle plan survives contact with the enemy.” I translate that as: no plan is perfect, and I expect things to go wrong. Yet, (and there’s a slight spoiler here) the Russians’ battle plan works flawlessly for the first half of the book. I expected them to have to make adjustments and show their brilliance by doing so on the fly. That bothered me a bit. It would have been more interesting my way, I think.

What I DID like was that many modern military stories have U.S. technology so totally superior to anything anybody else can put out that, well, it’s like Superman against Batman. We just can’t be beat. This book, I think, was a little more reasonable, and we got ourselves in trouble many times for underestimating the enemy’s technology. In fact, I was impressed with what they were able to put in the field to counter American forces.

In the end, the book was a good read, but not the best modern military book I’ve ever read. The author (and his co-author) definitely knew their stuff and there is lots of references to technology and military information that I was unaware of. If you’re into modern, Tom Clancy-ish books (Greaney actually ghost wrote some Clancy books), I recommend it.

I give it four stars out of five.