James Bultema draws on his experience in the military and the LAPD for a wire-taut account of a conventional war between America and China.
With its detailed depictions of military technology, tactics and geopolitics, it would be convenient to categorize this debut novel by amateur historian Bultema alongside the likes of Tom Clancy or Vince Flynn. Actually, it’s closer in character to W.E.B. Griffin, the military novelist best known for the Brotherhood of War series and its broad ensembles of characters that more closely reflect real armed forces than lone heroes.
A thriller that becomes increasingly frenetic with each passing moment, the story starts as most conflicts do: with small encounters. After China shoots down a foreign drone and tasks its hottest fighter pilot with buzzing the tower of the aircraft carrier U.S.S. Ronald Reagan, the U.S. military is on edge and on guard. Readers soon learn that President Zhang Wei of the People’s Republic of China has ordered a stealth strike on all American aircraft carriers as a prelude to invading Taiwan.
As the missiles start flying, characterization takes a backseat to military pyrotechnics, but the effort is sound. There’s little room for depth, but Bultema takes care to balance characters with call signs like “Hard Ass” and “Snake Eyes” with more mature takes on women fighter pilots, honorable enemy combatants, and notably, an awkward but heroic conscientious objector.
Bultema’s military thriller hums with hyperactivity while offering a deep dive into the perilous realm of geopolitics, from grand strategies to ground-level intricacies. Once readers get more comfortable with an alphabet soup of acronyms like COMCARSTRKGU (Commander, Carrier Strike Group), they’ll find the technical lingo belies a backdrop of technological marvels and strategic warfare that seems to blur the lines between reality and science fiction.
In our volatile modern times, Sea of Red serves as a keen reminder of the costs of war, the rarity of valor, and the fragile delicacy of détente between nuclear powers.
Also available in hardcover.