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Customer Review

TOP 500 REVIEWERon 21 August 2008
This is the fifth and currently (August 08) most recent book in the series which began with "Ghost" and continued with "Kildar." I have seen the series described by the names of both those books and also "Paladin of Shadows." In this book Mike Harmon and his team return to the USA at the request of the President to try to stop a terrorist attempt to attack various soft targets such as Disneyworld with lethal nerve gas.

All the books in this series feature either counter-terror operations or actual pitched battles against Islamic extremists, and have most of the characters vocally expressing very right wing views. All five of the books have villains who enjoy inflicting sexual violence against women, up to and including rape and murder, and the central character also has sexual tastes which range from the kinky to the completely out of order, so none of the books are suitable for anyone squeamish. "A deeper blue" has rather less in the way of sex than the first few books in the series, but the central character appears to like shocking people, for example by openly referring to another character as his "harem manager."

(The reader who has not read the previous books will be thinking "What! Does that mean what I think it does?" The answer is yes.)

"A Deeper Blue", like the second, third and fourth books in the series, is less outrageous, and a bit better written, than "Ghost" but still pushes the envelope hard in several places. It also, for the first time in the series, presents one of the Muslims caught up in the activities of the terrorists as a decent human being who tries to limit the harm caused by his co-religionists. Nevertheless, as a rough litmus test, if you were strongly against the Iraq war, are very pro-feminist, or even slightly prudish, do your blood pressure a favour and refrain from touching this entire series with a ten foot barge-pole.

Former SEAL Mike Harmon, codename Ghost, after fighting and defeating a number of terrorist plots, has settled down in a remote valley in the country of Georgia where he bought the local castle.

The area concerned does not actually exist, but if it did, Russian tanks would have been rampaging through it while I was reading this book. I couldn't help thinking "Typical - as soon as Mike and his troops are off in the states Putin invades!"

It turns out that the castle and associated farmland which Mike bought came with some feudal retainers, the Keldara, who accept him as their liege lord or "Kildar" - and if that sounds wierd and anachronistic at the start of the 21st century you ain't read nothing yet.

Since Chechen terrorists are a major nuisance in the area on both sides of the Georgian/Russian frontier, Mike Harmon has trained some of his Keldara as an anti-terrorist militia with the knowledge and support of the Georgian, Russian, and US governments. (This was written at a time when relations between Russia and Georgia were merely bad, which is reflected in the book, but before they deteriorated into war and invasion.)

During the previous book, an anti-terorist operation in search of stolen WMD (Weapons of Mass Destruction) led that militia into a pitched battle with a brigade of 4,000 Chechens which resulted in heavy casualties on both sides. The Keldara won, but at the start of the book Mike has locked himself away, grieving because a girl he was in love with was one of those killed.

Mike and the Keldara had previously smashed a criminal conspiracy in which senior figures in the governments of most of the world's most powerful governments were implicated. The guilty individuals concerned have been quietly removed from power, but now Mike Harmon has both friends and enemies in all those governments. The pricipal effect of this in "A deeper blue" is that John Ringo can fantasise about his characters being able to say exactly what they think to assorted idiots, stuffed shirts, liberals and left-wingers (I am not associating these concepts, but the book does) and any appeal to higher authority on the part of those outraged at such comments hits a brick wall.

Initially Mike Harmon does not want to respond to the request to go back to the USA and hunt for nerve gas, as he is too busy grieving. But he allows some of his people to go, and when two of them walk into a trap meant for Mike, anger snaps him back to himself: the terrorists soon won't know what hit them.

One or two of Mike's old friends from "Ghost" also make an appearence in this book.

The full "Paladin of Shadows" series currently consists of

Ghost
Kildar
Choosers of the Slain
Into the Breach
A Deeper Blue

John Ringo normally writes military SF and most of his offerings in that genre are extremely good. This series is about a freelance war on terror. In places, and especially in the first book, Ringo seems to be in grave danger of crossing the line between challenging the reader and going out of your way to see how many people you can offend. That goes even for his existing fans among military SF readers, who are probably neither the most prudish or left/liberal of audiences.

In fact the funniest part of "A Deeper Blue" and all the other books in the series from "Kildar" onwards is not part of the main text - it is the disclaimer at the start of the books which at least demonstrates that Ringo understands and has a sense of humour about the controversy "Ghost" stirred up. That disclaimer is worth quoting in full, it reads as follows:

"This is a work of fiction. All the characters and events portrayed in this book are fictional, and any resemblance to real people or incidents is purely coincidental. This book and series has no connection to reality. Any attempt by the reader to replicate any scene in this series is to be taken at the reader's own risk. For that matter, most of the actions of the main character are illegal under US and international law as well as most of the stricter religions in the world.

"There is no Valley of the Keldara. Heck, there is no Kildar. And the idea of some Scots and Vikings getting together to raid the Byzantine Empire is beyond ludicrous.

"The islands described in a previous book do not exist. Entire regions described in these books do not exist. Any attempt to learn anything from these books is disrecommended by the author, the publisher and the author's mother who wishes to state that he was a very nice boy and she doesn't know what went wrong."

Incidentally, that line about "any resemblance to real people or incidents is purely coincidental" is a classic example of a blatantly false statement which escapes being a lie only because both author and reader know that it's a legal fiction which he has to write and makes no attempt to fool anyone. Osama Bin Laden and Vladimir Putin appear in these books under their real names, certain other characters will instantly be recognised by any politically aware reader as corresponding to real world US politicians.

As mentioned, all five books in the series contain a great deal of violence, strongly expressed and very right-wing political views, and references to sex which are always utterly politically incorrect and sometimes fairly explicit. My copies of these books are stored where my children can't get at them and will be until they are adults.

Provided you are not offended by the sex, violence and non-PC attitudes, these books can be quite exciting and entertaining in places. But I would advise feminists, left-wingers, and anyone even slightly prudish to save your money for something else.
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