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'Empire Rising', Rick Campbell

A new talent recently emerged on the military thriller scene - indeed, it all but burst onto the scene full grown, and received almost unfailing praise. This month, we are especially pleased to be able to confirm that the praise was more than well deserved, and hope that Rick Campbell’s second novel will receive the world-wide recognition that it so justly deserves.

Campbell, a retired USN submariner, debuted this time last year with a submarine thriller, ‘Trident Deception’, which garnered lavish praise, albeit mainly from the US market. Hailed as a natural successor to Clancy, a high-octane debut, and a fist-fight of a thriller, it introduced a US President whose foreign policy was in disarray, a feisty female National Security Advisor intent on untangling it, and a US Navy team tasked with making the impossible happen.

That same combination return in Campbell’s second novel, ‘Empire Rising’, out in hardback this month. Christine O’Connor, National Security Advisor to the embattled US President, finds herself arguing against a trade deal which threatens to kick the legs out from under the Chinese economy, potentially setting the two global powers at odds. If Campbell does only a workmanlike task of describing the political machinations of Washington, it is no doubt because he has little or no firsthand experience of them, and that shows a little in the opening pages of the novel. That said, whatever lack there may be in terms of casus belli, Campbell opens firmly, keeps extraneous political detail to a minimum, and powers through to the meat of his novel - the conflict, and its eventual, bloody resolution.

Within a couple of chapters, China has launched a major offensive against both Taiwan and Japan, a resource grab that will both steady its economy, and allow it reassert itself on the world stage. The US Pacific fleet, wrong footed by a combination of cutting-edge cyber warfare and good old-fashioned guile, is crippled, and the American military is reeling from what could well be a knock-out blow. And here, Campbell and his experience come into their own. He knows his surface ships, and his carriers, and is able to paint compelling pictures, with just enough detail to hook the reader in, but not enough to overwhelm. He knows his naval aviators, and describes their dog fights over the Straits of Taiwan with a natural authority. But what he really knows, deep down in the marrow of his bones, are submarines and submariners. From the warm waters of the Pacific, to the freezing channels beneath the arctic ice, it is the underwater power of the US that will win or lose the day, and it is there that Campbell’s years of practical experience come to the fore.

Campbell has been likened to Clancy, but his breadth - his ability to shift within a single novel from detailed submarine warfare scenarios, to surface battles, air combat, and espionage remind one just as much of Stephen Coonts, while his chapters focused on the SEALS smack of Patrick Robinson at his very best. This is an author who brings it all to the table, and weaves a multitude of threads together to form one single, fast paced, adrenaline pumping, yet essentially authentic narrative.

‘Trident Deception’ brought Rick Campbell to the attention of the US markets, and it is to be sincerely hoped that a second resounding success, as ‘Empire Rising’ certainly promises to be, widens both his appeal and recognition. In a world that can often be all too focused on the Middle East, and its threat potentials, it is refreshing to discover an author who is open to the much older, more brooding threat that sleeps in the Far East beneath the surface of China’s vast but unstable economy. Readers in south-east Asia will find the novel very real, and its premise very worrying as a result, and it is to be hoped that paperback availability reflects that when ‘Empire Rising’ is released in a mass market format later in the year.

'Empire Rising' by Rick Campbell will be released in hardback by St Martin's Press on 1 April 2015.

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