In the wake of nuclear terrorism, a squad of elite soldiers must combat artificial intelligence and seek justice in this military political thriller, a sequel to The Red.
Lieutenant James Shelley and his squad of US Army soldiers were on a quest for justice when they carried out the unauthorized mission known as First Light. They returned home to America to face a court-martial, determined to expose the corruption in the chain of command that compelled their actions. But in a country still reeling from the nuclear terrorism of Coma Day, the courtroom is just one battlefield of many.
A new cycle of violence ignites when rumors of the elusive, rogue AI known as the Red go public—and Shelley is, once again, pulled into the fray. Challenged by his enemies, driven by ideals, Shelley feels compelled to act. But are the harrowing choices he makes really his own, or are they made for him, by the Red? And with millions of lives at stake in a game of nuclear cat-and-mouse, does the answer even matter?
Nagata's second near-future thriller starts more sedately than did The Red, the first book in her high-octane trilogy. U.S. Army Lieutenant James Shelley and the survivors of his cybernetically linked Apocalypse Squad are standing trial for kidnapping a billionaire and bringing her to justice for her role in the use of nuclear weapons against the United States. After the court-martial, the president pardons the soldiers, because public opinion is overwhelmingly in their favor. Now a civilian, and apparently no longer protected by the AI called the Red, Shelley is targeted by assassins and quickly learns that other billionaire traitors still have nuclear devices to deploy. Now expressly working for a vigilante organization, he and his squad undertake a series of violence-laden missions in order to recover those devices. Nagata's perfect conspiracy fantasy equally condemns the U.S. government and the 1%. Three things make this a superior thriller: the author's powerfully depicted, flawed, but sympathetic protagonist; her equally well-drawn, believable and virtually cut-from-the-headlines depiction of highly competent women warriors; and the book's heart-pounding action sequences. Readers new to Shelley's adventures should probably start the series at its beginning.