When Lieutenant Gavin Kelly's recon platoon swims ashore a Mogadishu beach under the glare of hundreds of news camera lights, it is an appropriately surreal beginning to Operation Restore Hope. This modern war is vastly different from the battles Kelly's father and grandfather fought and from the young lieutenant's own experience during Operation Desert Storm. Minutes after the Marines' celebrated landing, one of Kelly's men kills an armed Somali bodyguard. The circumstances of the killing are unclear and Kelly finds himself in the center of a maelstrom. He must act quickly to deflect a vociferous outcry from members of the international press corps, censure by his Marine superiors, and the possibility of losing the loyalty of his men -- particularly two enlisted leaders in the platoon who have vouched for the necessity of the kill.
Thus begins Sharkman Six, a stinging morality tale in which Kelly is torn between his men, his confusing mission, and the international rules of engagement he has sworn to uphold. As his platoon descends into the lawless, violent underbelly of Somalia, Lieutenant Kelly must determine his own values -- and allegiances -- in a country where murders are commonplace and constant.
With heart-pounding, intricate military detail, rapier wit, and stunning verisimilitude, Sharkman Six speaks to the violent urges lurking in us all and the lengths to which we will go to control them. In Gavin Kelly, West has created an authentic, sympathetic, and wholly compromised young officer of war who will put you in mind of the best of military heroes and antiheroes.
Pairing Sellars with this knockout work was truly inspired. Sellars's performance is one of those rare occasions where narrative and narrator are in perfect sync. In a tone reminiscent of Capt. Benjamin Willard, Martin Sheen's character in Apocalypse Now Redux (only not quite as jaded), Sellars's dryly cynical first-person delivery is in a voice rendered raspy, seemingly from whispering shouted orders. He brings the character of Gavin Kelly, a young Marine platoon leader, so to life that the illusion of listening to a real person tell a true story is complete. Kelly and his men are stationed in Somalia as part of a peacekeeping operation called Restore Hope. In this action-filled, sometimes disturbingly violent, morality tale, Kelly has to choose between loyalty and duty. West, a former marine platoon commander, must have been pleased to hear his first novel fleshed out so convincingly by Sellars. Simultaneous release with the S&S hardcover (Forecasts, Sept. 24, 2001).