Thursday, November 11, 2021

Vietnam Ground Zero by Eric Helm

Vietnam Ground Zero 
by Eric Helm ( and )
1986 Gold Eagle

Captain Gerber, stationed in the Mekong Delta, sends an assassination team into Cambodia to assassinate a Chinese officer who's been supporting the NVA. Word of the hit travels to a general who has it out for Gerber, and two of his men are court martialed.

The initial hit was superbly written - suspenseful, action packed, and if it wasn't historically accurate it faked it well enough. The bit with the trial, and the efforts of Gerber to free his men, made less sense. To prove that his men were innocent of the war crime they definitely committed, they proceed to commit another war crime, travelling back to Cambodia.

The idea, I guess, was either to prove they had a good reason for the assassination or to blackmail the general into an acquittal by threatening to publicize it. This depends on a reporter withholding the story of her career because she's banging the Captain, but also begs the question of why the General held the court martial in the first place when he could have just ignored the hit and kept it quiet.

I don't mind sketchy plot devices as rubber bands to hold action scenes together, but narratively the action scenes just set up the court martial, which held up the bulk of the story. The female reporter shoehorned in to squeeze in a sex scene didn't help either.

The military scenes were well written, and we could have done with more of that. The second incursion felt like Randle and Cornett got bored halfway through and ended it early, and the next potential action scene, an escape from the brig, was entirely off page. 

This felt like a standalone novel, but it's actually the fifth in the series - it was preceded by four titles under the title Scorpion Squad. It doesn't act like a typical men's adventure war novel. As a solo title, Captain Gerber hardly sees any action, and it's not a typical Howling Commandos style squad. I'm not sure any of these characters are even in the final installment, Zebra Cube.

The whole series is available on Kindle, and as of this writing free to Kindle Unlimited subscribers.

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