Mobilize!: Reassembling Forces with the World in Chaos
John A. Harper
Reviewed by Marty Shaw for Reader Views (6/11)
A power-hungry dictator makes a play for control and the U.S. is unable to respond because government cutbacks have stripped the military of most of its power. In a desperate attempt to keep the peace, military forces are thrown back together to stop the evil Suleyman, III from taking over the world.
In Harper’s world, the U.S. government has been reduced to getting most of its information from FOX News, so it’s no surprise that military forces are completely unprepared for any serious fighting. We follow Naval Reserve Captain Karl Swenson as the Navy starts to dust off old equipment and personnel and prepares to fight. Karl is in the Reserve but he still yearns for command. While he’s not thrilled about the growing violence that’s taking center stage, his superiors don’t exactly have to twist his arm to get him back into action; an attitude that causes a little bit of friction with his wife, Marcia. Another source of friction for Karl is his son, Harm. While daughter Karen is proudly following in her father’s footsteps, Harm defects to Canada when he learns the U.S. is bringing back the draft. Unfortunately, for Harm, it’s a case of ‘out of the frying pan and into the fire’ because Canada decides to join the fight and starts their own draft, which results in Harm becoming a member of the Canadian Army.
I loved the plot and thought the characters were believable, but things tended to get bogged down with the way information was provided. It soon reached the point where I dreaded reading some variation of “Hey Mush [Karl’s nickname for his wife], listen to this…” because what followed was Karl reading a newspaper article word-for-word, resulting in some very boring newsy text that could last anywhere from half a page to two pages. I have to be honest and admit that I started skimming over these passages because they really didn’t seem to be relevant to the story and they occurred frequently.
Aside from the newspaper reading, I only had one other major problem with the book, and that was Harper’s numerous attempts at being creative with stating how people speak. I understand the fear associated with always using “he said” as a dialogue tag, but it’s important that the word actually fit the situation. One such example is, “Well then, bring them in.” Karl spits the orders with a suppressed smile. I know it’s a minor picky detail but things like that stand out. You usually need a ‘P’ in the phrase to actually spit something and it’s usually used when a character is upset or angry, which doesn’t fit with a suppressed smile. Likewise, Karl seems to smirk frequently when speaking with his wife, usually while saying something sweet. If I actually smirked while saying something nice to my wife, I’d be labeled a sarcastic jerk because ‘smirk’ doesn’t usually fit with genuine feelings.
With the exception of those admittedly minor things, “Mobilize!: Reassembling Forces with the World in Chaos” is an interesting story, and Harper is very nice to us non-military readers by providing photos of many of the ships and aircraft that are in the story so we can actually picture the equipment when it’s mentioned. In the soft-cover edition of the book, the photo glossary starts on page 133, and I found it to be very helpful.