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Sunday, 16 September 2007

Book Review — Dead Hand, by Harold Coyle

Filed under: Reading — Tags: , , , — mikewb1971 @ 11:04 PM (23:04)

Dead Hand by Harold Coyle

Dead Hand, like all of Coyle’s books, is a good read if you’re into war stories. In this one, the conflict is multi-dimensional – no simple “Us vs. Them” in this one. In Dead Hand, two special-operations units are deployed into an part of Siberia that’s just had an asteroid strike nearby. The asteroid strike has struck in such a way that a Russian ICBM complex loses communication with Moscow, causing the local commander, a General Igor Likatchev, to suddenly gain the launch authority for the missiles, a safeguard that allows for a counter-strike in case of a surprise attack against the “national command authority” in Moscow. This system is code-named “Dead Hand,” hence the book’s title.

The two opposing groups are as follows:

A composite NATO unit, comprised of teams from various member nations (featured (in order of appearance) are the British SAS, the French Foreign Legion, U.S. Army Special Forces, and U.S. Navy SEALs). They’re sent out to carry out “Operation Tempest” by blowing up the Russian missile silos in case Likatchev decides to “push the button.”

A Russian spetsnatz group, sent out to assassinate Gen. Likatchev, as the General is becoming politically popular at the expense of the Moscow insider-types. Col. Demetre Orlov, the group’s commander, had served with Likatchev previously, and many of the group’s members are fans of the general.

A big problem for both teams is that the asteroid strike has trashed the local area pretty thoroughly (like the Tunguska event of June, 1908) – the NATO teams have to do a nighttime parachute jump with extremely bad weather (due to the asteroid impact) and fallen trees all over the drop zone, and end up losing a large portion of their force. The Russians have problems landing their planes (four out of six make it), and end up going to Likatchev’s headquarters on foot, as the roads are covered with fallen trees.

Coyle’s fictional asteroid “1991 HWC Nereus” is rather close to the rock of the same name – 4660 Nereus – both are stony bodies about 1 km across.

The main difference between the two opposing forces is a notable one – the NATO commanders trust their subordinates, while the Russians are on the paranoid side. Col. Orlov never receives written orders from the Defense Minister about his mission to seek out Gen. Likatchev, and Orlov never briefs his men about the mission until it’s absolutely necessary to do so.

What separates Coyle from other writers is that while Coyle mentions the geopolitical aspects of the story, they serve as a backdrop, as opposed to having the story revolve around them. Thus he’s free to focus on the characters who are in the thick of the action on the ground.


  1. Approximate reading level – 11.4

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