What makes a good thriller novel? Is it pacing, like it has to make you turn the pages faster and faster until the back cover finally slams into place? Or is it believability, the idea that what’s happening in the book could happen right outside your front door? Maybe it’s happening right now? [What was that noise?] Or maybe it’s an intangible thing, something that just grips the reader and keeps them locked on for the ride. Whatever the case is, Richard A. Clarke found it with his new novel, Sting of the Drone.
Sting of the Drone follows a handful of military and defense personnel who work in the U.S. Drone program. They scour the planet, looking for high value targets, people deemed dangerous and other poor souls added by the ‘Kill Committee’. On the other side of the story is the Mafia, Al-Qaeda, and others who find the drone attacks on their land a blight against humanity and vow to stop it. It’s a deadly chess match between two brilliant sides using the highest levels of technology and each one promising to defend their country to the bitter and inevitable end.
Richard A. Clarke didn’t just pull this story out of thin air, he has a real life history with the U.S. government and the drone program. That experience brings a much sharper edge to the details of what the soldiers and defense staff inside the program go through on a daily basis. The tension inside the ‘Kill Committee’ is palpable.
Also, while there are terrorists, mafia folks and other dangerous types, the interesting twist of the book is the real villain could very well be the drones themselves. The book stands as both an indictment and defense of the controversial program and its often shadowy methods. I found myself leaning to both sides of the debate as I moved through the chapters. Robotic, lethal and disposable, the drone truly makes for a terrifying opponent.
Because so much of the story is practically ripped from the headlines it is easy to fall into a parallel universe where the book moves from the fiction to non-fiction aisle in the bookstore. That could be seen as a danger for those people who might read it as a nightmare scenario, but for a more level-headed reader I think it stands as a warning of what the drone program could become if not fully understood by those in power.
Yet, the most impactful and mind-blowing bit comes in the afterward, when Clarke lets out some of the true life scenarios he was a part of during his time as the National Coordinator for Security and Counterterrorism. I don’t want to give this part away, but I will tell you the history of the world would’ve changed drastically if the right people had listened at the right time.
Sting of the Drone is a jet-fueled race through a world where the sky itself can be your worst enemy.