This is the first in a series of short stories which comprise the mercenary career of special operator Sean Deckard. In Issue #1,we find Sean Deckard on a SOG team snooping and pooping in Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia, during the post-Tet chapter of US involvement in the region.
The innocent-sounding "Studies and Observation Group," more widely known by the SOG acronym, is surrounded by far more secrecy than I once assumed: I heard some of the old-timers talking about it (though never in specific detail) when I was a lowly grunt. Now I wonder if those people had any actual knowledge of it, or were just passing on vintage scuttlebutt from the pseudo-mythical CIA operations in southeast Asia.
Both the CIA and Special Forces branched out from Wild Bill Donovan's Office of Strategic Services (OSS) of WWII fame. During the tragic fiasco in Vietnam, the two organizations came full-circle to reunite in the form of SOG. Special operations/unconventional warfare forces are most effective when operating with their own intelligence-gathering capabilities organic to their organization(s). Futile sacrifices of the lives of elite warriors like Pont du Hoc; or just plain wastes of effort and resources like the Son Tay raid demonstrate this principle. SOG, therefore, should have been a force to be reckoned with. Though still shrouded in secrecy, by all accounts, they were. But like the entire Vietnam experience (and, arguably Korea and other military misadventures), tactical success after resounding tactical success all are rendered meaningless, along with their cost in human lives, when the command structure that put our men in harm's way is not committed to achieving strategic victory. Jack Murphy gives us a short glimpse into this insane mess through the eyes of Sean Deckard.
Deckard was recruited into SOG from the LRRPs (Long Range Reconnaisance Patrols--later organized into Ranger companies), and he is a hard-charger. Whatever his inner motivations might be, he is the ideal soldier, dedicated to his mission at the cost of most everything he might hold dear. However, he is on his way to some hardcorps disillusion when he proves just a little too effective at what he does.
The author provides links to some information about PROMIS on his blog. It is spooky stuff, if true, and evidently not easy to explain well in simple terms. This process, shrouded in even more mystery than SOG, provides the subsurface impetus for the surface action in this series. I'm already fascinated to watch how this technilogical monstrosity is unveiled throughout the series.
But even without all that, Issue #1 of PROMIS is a great read. I would have finished it in one sitting if life hadn't got in the way. The action is fluid, visual, and at no point made me groan in disbelief. Jack did his research well enough that I had nothing to nitpick. On top of that, he's a veteran and knows how to write about combat operations without sinking into shellshocked introspection. He knows how to tweak real-world scenarios to make an entertaining read without interrupting our suspension of disbelief.
PROMIS is short, but packs a wallop. At 99 cents, you can't beat it. I've spent much more for fiction not nearly as good. I plan to buy the whole series as he writes it.
Henry Brown is the author of the military thrillers Hell and Gone and Tier Zero. He also reviews books and movies at the Two-Fisted Blogger.