War of Eagles (Op-Center #12)

0425199622.01._sx450_sy635_sclzzzzzzz_War of Eagles by Jeff Rovin
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

A series of explosions around the globe has two Chinese rivals at each other’s throats and a launch of a plutonium-powered foreign-made Chinese satellite looks to be the next target, but which one and why is the question a suddenly restructured Op-Center must answer. War of Eagles is the twelfth and last book of the Jeff Rovin authored Op-Center series’ original run as Paul Hood is suddenly replaced by a three-star general as Director of Op-Center but as newly appointed intelligence troubleshooter for the new President, only to find himself working with his old command in the middle of China.

Explosions aboard a freighter in Charleston, a sugar refinery in Durban, and then at a night club in Taipei reveals a battle between the head of the Chinese secret police Chou Shin and the top general Tam Li. Yet early in the emerging situation, Paul Hood is called to the White House to become special intelligence envoy for the new President while his replacement General Morgan Carrie is on her way to takeover Op-Center. Both Hood and Carrie quickly assert themselves in their new positions much the consternation to the White House Chief of Staff and the remaining personnel of Op-Center especially Bob Herbert. After learning from Mike Rodgers that his company helped build a new Chinese communications platinum-powered satellite, which would benefit the military, the President sends Hood to China to speak with Prime Minister Le Kwan Po and expects Op-Center to help him in every way. Le, whose main job is keeping political factions at peace or the President will find someone who can, has a meeting with Chou and Tam that Chou leaves early makes Le think the Chou might target the satellite which happens to be the working theory that Hood, Rodgers, and Op-Center have as well. However, Tam plans to blow up the rocket killing Le and other Chinese ministers and bureaucrats as ruse to attack Taiwan then later “learn” it was Chou’s fault. Chou notices the unusual military activity Tam ordered and goes to investigate only for Tam to burn Chou’s plane on the runway. After meeting with Le, Hood goes with the Prime Minister to the launch while Rodgers meets with a team of Marines undercover in China to infiltrate the facility as a security team for his company. Upon learning of Chou’s death, Le becomes suspicious of Tam and decides to talk with his soldiers at the facility only to be conned by the General only to learn they’ve fled the facility. Outside the facility Rodgers helps capture the soldiers and relays where the bomb is that’ll destroy the rocket which Hood and the Marines help destroy preventing disaster. Le orders Tam arrest while Hood’s success gives the President a victory that upsets General Carrie’s superior who orders her to fire Herbert who worked outside the chain of command.

After a nice, arguably slow, setup at the beginning of the book Rovin quickly got the plot off and running along with some interesting subplots that complimented the main plot. Given this was thought to be the final Op-Center book, it was necessary to get the three big players of the organization fully out and the solutions to get Hood and Herbert gone were interesting to say the least. The three main Chinese point-of-view characters were well written and creating an intriguing counterpoint to the America POVs. Though only a secondary character, General Morgan Carrie was well written and would have been an interesting character to have led the series if it had continued, though to be honest if it had she wouldn’t have existed. While one of the better written books there were several big miscues that couldn’t be forgiven. The first was Mike Rodgers independently going after Tam escaping soldiers and not getting shot by other Chinese soldiers chasing after them as well and the second was the decision that Dr. Liz Gordon, Op-Center’s psychologist, to be a creepy lesbian—she starts formulating a plan to seduce a married General Carrie—instead of just simply a lesbian which had been hinted at earlier in the series.

War of Eagles wasn’t the best book in the original Op-Center run that was mostly lows with occasional highs, but after the awful previous installment at least Jeff Rovin sent it off well.

Op-Center

Bio-Strike (Power Plays #4)

0425177351.01._sx450_sy635_sclzzzzzzz_Bio-Strike by Jerome Preisler
My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

In the already bloody and terror stricken 21st Century, another nightmare of biological warfare is looming thanks to Harlan DeVane who wants to show off his new “product” be getting revenge on UpLink International’s CEO Roger Gordian. Bio-Strike the fourth book in Tom Clancy’s Power Plays series written by Jerome Preisler sees UpLink’s top brass and Sword security force at first figure out what is wrong with their boss then who did it and finally how to cure it all with time slowly whittling down.

Using a genetically modified hantavirus, Harlan DeVane plays to sell the bioweapon to both sides of various conflicts across the globe but wants to take out Roger Gordian for his own pleasure due to the failure of his space terror plan several months before because of UpLink’s Sword security. The Sword operative that was the unknown mole in the previous book is forced to administer the activating viral agent that sends Gordian into intensive care and doctors scrambling to find the cause, while UpLink’s Sword leadership begins their own investigation which eventually leads to the mole who directs them to his boss a southern California drug lord in league with DeVane but suddenly finding himself in escalating situation with a cross border rival. The two drug lords have a meeting where one is killed sooner than his rival wanted, but he then dies via car bomb planted by the free agent informant who set the two drug lords up against one another. The informant then hands over a copy of a conversation between the mole and the drug lord talking about the viral activator to a Sword operative who was scouting the drug lord meet up. Based on the conversation, the Sword team is able to track down DeVane’s lab in Canada and strike at it while getting the medical samples to nullify the bioweapon and save Gordian’s life from the virus. Out tens of millions of dollars and having pissed off his clients, DeVane isn’t a happy man.

Overall the book is good, however in the overall series the story in this book appeared too soon especially after how Shadow Watch ended. DeVane went with being fine with being stopped to wanting to kill Roger Gordian in a span of months, which given that the DeVane arc will continue for several more books it seemed like a big escalation since it’ll calm down over the next few books. One of the annoying things in the book was that the President-elect of Bolivia was assassinated via the virus, but later in the book he was from Brazil and later Peru so a big editor failure. Yet despite issues I talked about earlier in this paragraph, this is probably the best book of the series as the primary plot and the various subplots were well connected resulting in very good quick read that results in time well spent.

Bio-Strike is potentially the best book of the Power Plays series, even though Jerome Preisler had DeVane’s grudge against Gordian go from 1 to 10 just like that was a weird decision it didn’t undermine the overall story. After the let down of the previous installment of the series, this book really picks things up and makes you interested where the series will go from here.

Power Plays

Call to Treason (Op-Center #11)

0425195465.01._sx450_sy635_sclzzzzzzz_Call to Treason by Jeff Rovin
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

The death of a British financial giant after attending a party hosted by a U.S. Senator that’s ready to start a third-party run for the White House grabs headlines then a suddenly downsized Op-Center gets a call from Scotland Yard. Call to Treason is the eleventh book written by Jeff Rovin of the Op-Center series as a suddenly out-of-work Mike Rodgers is recruited by Senator Orr to be apart of this third-party run for the White House when Op-Center begins investigating the death of a British financier who’s business ideas opposed those of the Senator thus forcing Rodgers to make some hard choices as events unfold.

General Mike Rodgers attends a party thrown by Senator Don Orr and finds himself being recruited to join the Senator’s team for a run for the White House, also at the party is British financier William Wilson who hours later is killed in his hotel room by an unknown woman with an injection underneath his tongue. The next day Rodger’s learns from Paul Hood that Op-Center’s budget has been slashed and he is out of a job which makes his decision to join the Orr campaign easy but then Darrel McCaskey gets a call from Scotland Yard to take a look at the Wilson’s death he finds the injection site with he coroner and suddenly Op-Center is investigating the death and having to investigate Senator Orr’s party guests and his staff making Rodgers be in a tough spot. Orr’s soon to be Vice Presidential candidate Admiral Link, a former head of Naval Intelligence and director of covert ops at the CIA, thinks this is Hood trying to get Op-Center’s funding back and is hostile to Rodgers. Then a American businessman is murdered the same way as Wilson making it appear like a serial killer, but McCaskey’s wife Maria Corneja sees it as a way to distract from Wilson. The two hit the pavement and the misdirection gets them to focus on Link and Orr’s staff, which results in Link sending an E-bomb to Op-Center that knocks out all their electronics and kills someone. Though he had told Hood he was resigning that day, Rodger’s is pissed at the death of a coworker and tells Hood he didn’t official change his resignation date and will join the investigation. McCaskey and Corneja find out that a Washington detective was being blackmailed then using information that Rodger’s remember from his interaction with Orr’s staff arrest the killer while Rodgers realizes he’s being had at the third-party convention in San Diego when suddenly Link is kidnapped. However, Rodger’s figures out that the target is Orr and stops his abduction then locates Link who admits that he had the second victim killed to keep his plan to discredit Orr and force him out of the race especially after Orr had Wilson killed. Orr and his staff are arrested the next day and Rodgers effectively kills the newborn third party.

From the beginning this book was a mess, the first thing was slashing Op-Center’s budget in the era of Homeland Security and the War on Terror which were referenced in the book when the exact opposite would have happen especially given Op-Center’s record of taking out terrorists. The downsizing was essentially a vehicle to get Rodgers on Senator Orr’s team to make his conflict of interest to add to the story, only it became frustrating since it rolled back character development of several books. But the worst part of the book was the unreliable narrator device Rovin used for two character POVs to create a surprise twist at the end of the book, however given that over 10 books and every other POV in this book he had never used this device before thus making it’s inclusion problematic at best or just plain lying to readers at worst. The only good thing I could say about this book were the McCaskey’s interacting with one another.

Call to Treason is the penultimate book in the first run of the Op-Center series, but it’s probably the worst. Since finishing the book my view of it has diminished a lot as it seemed that Jeff Rovin was told that the series would be ending after the next book, War of Eagles, and he decided to just call it in. The result was a insult to readers who were teased with a potentially interesting political thriller and were instead given a Swiss cheese novel with glaring plot holes and diminished characters.

Op-Center

Shadow Watch (Power Plays #3)

0425171884.01._sx450_sy635_sclzzzzzzz_Shadow Watch by Jerome Preisler
My rating: 2.5 of 5 stars

The 21st Century from its inception has been bloody and prone to new security risks with UpLink International seemingly connected in some way, then the Space Shuttle explodes on the launch pad. Shadow Watch is the third book in Tom Clancy’s Power Plays series written by Jerome Preisler that sees UpLink and its Sword security forces come up against a different type of adversary that sees Roger Gordian’s idealism as a threat to his black-market businesses.

The Space Shuttle Orion catches fire and explodes on the launch pad killing its commander as Roger Gordian is an eyewitness as UpLink is the major contractor of the ISS that Orion was to begin construction. Several days later a mercenary force attacks an UpLink run ISS related facility in Brazil, which makes the next ISS-related launch by the Russians seem like the next target. Which is what Harlan DeVane and his mercenary leader want not only UpLink but the Russians to believe as well. But DeVane wants the “attack” to be a diversion so that his mercenary chief can plant a device on the ISS component to turn it into a weapon he can attack and blackmail governments with, however UpLink’s new Sword operative sniffs out the plan and prevents the device from being installed though the mercenary agent escapes. But DeVane gives UpLink its due but moves on to the next project.

Unlike the two previous books in the series, this one is pure setup for the future installments because it introduced several significant characters though at the expense of a focused story that all the plotlines easily connected with one another. The book bounces all over the place from Cape Canaveral to Brazil to San Jose to Maine to Bolivia to Albania to Kazakhstan with a specific plotline (or several) in each location that related to the main plot but honestly some could have been scrapped. Preisler dedicated an entire chapter to a Brazilian train disaster caused by a smaller version of the device that DeVane planned to install on the ISS component, but it was separated into about five different points-of-view that just made it weird and essentially seem like filler. The feel of the entire book was just setting things up for future books.

While Shadow Watch isn’t necessarily a good book, it’s alright and frankly meant to introduce many characters that will prove pivotal to future installments of the series. Once again dealing with creating a story around a computer game, Preisler did a passable job but not as good as either of the two previous books in the Power Plays series.

Power Plays

Sea of Fire (Op-Center #10)

0425190919.01._sx450_sy635_sclzzzzzzz_Sea of Fire by Jeff Rovin
My rating: 2.5 of 5 stars

A pirate attack on what appears to tourist yacht is derailed by a firefight and ends with an explosion, but the lone pirate survivor washes up on shore with traces of radiation. Sea of Fire is the tenth book of the Op-Center series written by Jeff Rovin follows Lowell Coffey and Bob Herbert teaming up with Australian and Singaporean investigators to find out who is smuggling nuclear waste and for what purpose.

Lee Tong leads his pirate crew on a raid on a yacht, but the yacht security shoots up his boat and a bullet hit an explosive destroying his boat. Tong is found by an Australian naval vessel with radiation detectors and quarantined in a hospital, his discovery results in a high-level Australian official getting Op-Center’s international law expert Lowell Coffey from Sydney to help deal with the situation. After interviewing Tong with Australians and a Singaporean female naval officer, Coffey gets in contact with Paul Hood and Bob Herbert about suspicion of the pirates attacking a boat smuggling nuclear waste which makes Herbert head Down Under to be on site. On the yacht the captain, Kannady, and the security chief, Hawke, have a confrontation in regards to tell their employer, Australian billionaire Jervis Darling, which the captain loses starting a chain reaction that leads to Hawke basically leading a one man mutiny that succeeds due to Kannady being predictable. The Singaporeans and Australians go to a nearest nuclear waste dumpsite to where the Tong was found and find the radiation levels lower than they should be, which leads to them tracking the last boat scheduled to dispose of material then the owner and his business associates that include Darling. On the flight to Australian Herbert takes the Darling lead and focus’ on it even though the Australians are hesitant to get close to him. However once Herbert arrives, he takes over the investigation and forces a confrontation with Darling at his home but messes up, but Darling orders the yacht sunk to have Kannady go down with the ship. However, Kannady escapes his flooding cabin, grabs flares, and gets to the deck of the yacht where to shots them off at the dinghies and in the sky before getting pulled down by the sinking yacht to drown. The investigators searching for the ship see the flares and save Hawke who claims to by Kannady but is found out. Having the ship and crew survivors allows Herbert to confront Darling at an airport and prevents him from leaving Australia in his jet and getting arrest for assault.

This installment of the series was a step down from the previous installment, which was one of if not the best of whole series. While the book focus’ on two of Op-Centers management team, one that had been focused on before (Herbert) and the first for the other (Coffey), Paul Hood is in the background and Mike Rodgers is only briefly seen thus changing the dynamic for the first time in the series. The change means that the HUMINT from the last book is put in the backseat, but given it was just starting and the ending of the previous book indicated this installment would be happening right after it which meant they could not have moved personnel around that wasn’t an issue. However, the book’s turned away from the previous installment’s implied direction was on top of the lack of reasons why Jervis Darling decided to smuggle nuclear waste in the first place and why Herbert decided to focus on him a la Captain Ahab with Moby Dick. While the action sequences and the conflict connected with Kannady and Hawke were interesting, plus the point-of-view time there was with Singaporean Female Naval Officer Monica Loh was a nice bonus but none of these can make up for the narrative stumbles.

While Sea of Fire is a step down in quality but is still okay which given Jeff Rovin’s track record in this series is a positive. This is the last Op-Center book I ready during the original run, so how the last two books are going to interesting and hopefully are built upon the foundations of the last few books.

Op-Center

ruthless.com (Power Plays #2)

0425165701.01._sx450_sy635_sclzzzzzzz_ruthless.com by Jerome Preisler
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The new millennium started with a new kind of terrorism and now a new kind of security threat not only endangers national security but also corporations. ruthless.com, the second book in Tom Clancy’s Power Plays, written by Jerome Preisler finds Roger Gordian’s UpLink International under pressure of a hostile takeover from a longtime rival while half a world away his security team stumbles onto evidence of a union of drug dealers, corrupt politicians, and Gordian’s own rival to shock the world.

Marcus Caine’s Monolith Technologies is attempting a hostile takeover of Roger Gordian’s UpLink International thanks to a secret friendship with a longtime Wall Street expert undermining UpLink on television and newsprint while battling Gordian on encryption deregulation in the media and Congress. Half a world away in Singapore, Gordian’s employee Max Blackburn goes to met his girlfriend who works for Monolith’s Singapore division and who he convinced to spy on her employer, finding evidence of Caine’s illegal activities. However, Caine and his East Asian associates found out and attempt to kidnap both her and Max but only succeed in getting Max which leads to his death. The disappearance of Max gets his boss Peter Nimec anxious who has to tell Gordian, who doesn’t condone industrial spying, before heading to Singapore to find out what happen. Nimec saves Max’s girlfriend from the thugs looking for her and gets the information she stole while Gordian upsets Caine’s takeover bid after surviving a contract killing. Meanwhile UpLink security apprehends two mafia members attempting to steal encryption keycodes for a US nuclear submarine from a key-bank facility, which gets the Malay military to back up a similar facility from attack by rogue Indonesian military forces looking for codes for the same US nuclear submarine that has the US President and other regional leaders on it. In the aftermath of the failed terrorist attack, Caine has a mafia gunman kill him while Nimec gets revenge for Max on the man who killed him.

While ruthless.com is based on a computer game like Politika, the story elements Preisler was given to work with resulted in a better-quality story in narrative flow and how the various subplots interlinked with one another. The decision by Preisler to nix the Gordian separation/divorce subplot from the previous book was a massive improvement allowing the businessman and technologically thinking Gordian to come out more while the attempt on his life also allowed the reader to get a better insight into how he thinks. Another strong point was Preisler’s giving the various antagonists some buildup early to give them gravitas, which means when the protagonists go up against them later in the story there’s importance to the confrontation in whichever way it happens. The only downside was that Peter Nimec comes in relatively late in the book, especially if memory serves, he becomes the main action guy as the series progresses.

ruthless.com is a solid follow up installment in the Power Plays series that improves where the first book faltered. Jerome Preisler writes a nice mixture of business intrigue and international terrorism plotting that keeps you looking forward to seeing what happens.

Power Plays

Mission of Honor (Op-Center #9)

0425186709.01._sx450_sy635_sclzzzzzzz_Mission of Honor by Jeff Rovin
My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

Out of the morning sun, militiamen kidnap a Catholic priest and suddenly the government of Botswana is wondering what is going on while the Vatican turns to their secret allies as well as extends a feeling to Op-Center. Mission of Honor is the ninth book of the Op-Center by Jeff Rovin finds the crisis management agency negotiating between the political fallout from Kashmir and figuring out how to react to events in the stable southern African nation that everyone quickly realizes that Europeans are pulling the strings.

Leon Seronga leads his Brush Vipers militiamen on a raid of Catholic church and kidnaps Father Bradbury to take to Vodun priest Dhamballa. The travel to the Vodun-Brush Viper hideout and treatment makes Bradbury call his missionary deacons and tells them to leave Botswana, the first step of Dhamballa’s desire to his homeland returned to the Vodun gods not the Catholic one. Bob Herbert gets a call from Edgar Kline, an old South African colleague who now works for Vatican Office of Security, wanting Op-Center’s help to find their missing priest though he’s on his way to the U.S. to ask an American bishop to temporarily replace Bradbury until his return. Meanwhile Paul Hood informs General Mike Rodgers that Striker would not be reconstituted but wants to create a Black-Ops HUMINT unit lead by Rodgers who is enthusiast about creating it and quickly gets things moving on the Botswana front with help from Herbert. Hood then learns from the head of Japanese intelligence that some European businessmen with ties to Botswana doing things in China, which sends Op-Center looking at outside influences behind the kidnapping. Seronga and a young recruit kill two deacons then travel with two Spanish soldiers, sent to support the Vatican, to the airport to meet the American bishop to kidnap him only to see him assassinated and the gunman shot by an airplane pilot who takes off. The two Brush Vipers exit the airport but are followed by Maria Corneja the first Op-Center undercover agent in the country. Eventually Maria joins the two to find a peaceful end to the situation knowing they didn’t kill the bishop, but someone wants the government and the world to blame them. Two more agents, Aideen Marley and David Battat, join up with the Brush Vipers and Maria then convince a disappointed Dhamballa to give them Bradbury and to come along with them as well while the Brush Vipers disperse before the Botswana military arrives. Though the situation in the Botswana is been cooled down, Hood and the rest of Op-Center want to get at those outside the country that started the situation.

This is the best book of the series since the fifth installment, Balance of Power, with very good character development and the switch from a military resolution to HUMINT Black-Ops resolution being the biggest reasons why. The transition of the workings of Op-Center also marks the transition of the series to hopefully a better overall product especially with the reintroductions of characters Marley, Battat, and Corneja from past books to a story threads connecting to the next book in the series. However, the book isn’t perfect with the biggest thing was the religious aspect not because that it was religious but because it was all incorrect. Vodun is a West African religion and one of the influences (along with Catholicism) in West Indian Voodoo, however Botswana is in southern Africa and has no indigenous connection with Vodun. And Botswana is a majority Protestant Christian nation (66%) with Catholicism less than 10%, making the placing of this story in the nation weird on numerous counts.

Mission of Honor might be the best book of the series with Jeff Rovin changing the titular agency’s focus from having a military solution to a black-ops approach with a reintroduction of characters from previous installments as field agents. While not perfect, this book has stuck with me for 17 years with being memorable from the series and is still very good.

Op-Center