Friday, September 28, 2012

Forgotten Books: Red Dragon -- Wade Curtis (Jerry Pournelle)

I don't remember where I picked this one up, but it's the second of two books about Paul Crane, a free-lance engineer who, in the first book, Red Heroin, is coerced into working for the CIA under the threat of going to prison if he refuses.  In this one, he's been out of work for a while.  The CIA offers payment if he'll work for them again, and though he's still a very reluctant spy,  he agrees to pose as a traitor who has the plans for some new laser technology that he's willing to sell to the Chinese.  As you might expect, to make his cover secure, the FBI is kept in the dark about things, so they're out to stop Crane any way they can.  

There's quite a bit about about sailing in the book, so if you like that sort of thing, you'll get plenty of it.  To me it started to seem like padding after a while, but Curtis/Pournelle makes up for it at the end with some really nice chase/pursuit sequences in an experimental plane.  

This was a sort of middling book for me.  It's okay, and Crane's all right as a character, but there's nothing to make it stand out.  It's just as well the Pournelle gave up on spy fiction and turned  his hand to SF.  He's done a lot better work in that field.  I'd recommend this only as a curiosity, and cheap copies can be found easily on the Internet.


  1. I'd say he's pretty middlin' as an sf writer, too, with most of his best work there having been in collaboration with Larry Niven...and their best collaboration I've read being the jokey, loopy INFERNO, a dark fantasy rather than sf recapitulating Dante, only with (spoiler, I suppose) Benito Mussolini as the protagonist's Virgil. Now, that's a Pournelle touch.

  2. I got a big kick out of INFERNO many long years ago. I've been tempted to read the sequel but haven't. Yet.

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  4. I've managed to forget there was a sequel to N&P'

    Also, Pournelle could easily dip into much less than middlin'...I remember how amused I was by Richard Lupoff's attempt to review JANISSARIES, wherein he gave up a few paragraphs in as he realized all the aggressive goofiness that was involved in the novel...