Estimated reading time: 6 minutes
Sean Parnell certainly knows how to draw readers into the intrigue of war and espionage with his novels, and he does so again with great ambition in his latest novel, Man of War. In it, we follow Eric Steele, an elite clandestine operative assigned to a secret US intelligence unit known only as the “Program”. His abilities are put to the greatest test yet as he sets out to recover a nuclear weapon stolen from a military convoy… with the man behind it being a former brother-in-arms of Steele.
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Sean Parnell Creates a Hero
Elite special forces operatives capable of much more than we can imagine no doubt exist in virtually every country, but we would still be hard-pressed to believe they can match up to the ones created by imaginative authors. While being mostly unrealistic and probably against the military mentality of teamwork, we are still attracted to the very concept of a one-man-army, an elite soldier versed in all aspects of combat and subterfuge… after all, it might be the most realistic superhero we can come up with. Sean Parnell is definitely an author interested in this idea, as evidenced by his new novel, Man of War, which also marks the debut of a new series centred on the main anchor, Eric Steele.
As you might gather from his name alone, Eric Steele isn’t the kind of soldier to mess around. He’s an elite clandestine operative assigned to the US intelligence unit known only as the “Program”, with many tours of fighting in Afghanistan behind him. He’s now essentially a shadow operative, going after enemies who won’t fall to conventional methods. Recent events, however, will put his abilities and loyalty to the test like nothing ever before. An attack on a military convoy resulted in the theft of a nuclear weapon, one Steele must retrieve urgently at all costs.
However, for the first time he might find himself going up against an enemy who can match his strength and cunning: a former brother-in-arms who was once Steele’s good friend. There isn’t much time left on the clock, and the hour of nuclear Armageddon approaches ever-so-fast for the United States of America.
The All-American Icon
This was Sean Parnell‘s first foray into fiction, with his previous and first book, Outlaw Platoon, detailing the author’s military campaign in Afghanistan. On many occasions we see interesting displays of the real-world knowledge accrued by the author in regards to weapons, combat tactics, military procedures and the like.
However, for the rest of it, it felt like Parnell transitioned into the realm of fiction rather seamlessly. As it happens he also shows himself to be a very competent author, and the first sign of that is the character of Eric Steele, the all-American hero we have come to know and love in this particular literary genre.
Though Eric definitely surprises the readers with his capabilities from time to time, on the whole it doesn’t feel as if his character was too exaggerated or unbelievable. As a matter of fact, he stands at the centre of a rather complex cast of characters with some profound layers to them.
None of them ever feel like cardboard cutouts, and whether you love or hate them you can always appreciate the amount of effort and detail Parnell put into developing them. I felt this was especially true in regards to the villain whose motivations are very understandable and draw sympathy… which is more easily said than done for a man planning to nuke the US.
Steele himself easily surpasses the role of caricature as the author also uses him as a sort of vehicle to discuss the mental and physical aftermaths of waging war. While he might definitely be a modern-day James Bond, Steele always remains a human being and a grim reminder of what it truly means to be a hero.
The Adventure of Vengeance
At its core, Man of War remains a novel of action espionage, and it certainly doesn’t fail to deliver on that front. We are taken on a globetrotting adventure across multiple continents, each one creating a new dynamic setting for the action set pieces. The story moves along at a furious pace as Steele chases after his former friend, rarely offering us any breaks from the action. We get to see the art of war in its full splendour, in large part thanks to the military experience of the author.
As mentioned at the beginning of the review, he describes in rather intriguing detail real strategies employed during combat, giving the scenes much more weight than they could have had otherwise. While the action certainly steals the show and makes you forget about everything else when it’s happening, in my opinion the truly engaging aspects of this story were the espionage elements. Personally, I’m a big fan of cerebral cat and mouse games revolving around information, technology and gadgets, which is precisely what we find a whole lot of here.
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Watching Steele and his operatives making sharp and logical decisions while trying to outmanoeuvre an enemy who may or may not be a few steps ahead of them is the kind of espionage I find truly riveting, and Parnell really makes the most of the elements he puts into play. This is amplified by the stakes being consistently raised as the story goes on, and we are always reminded of the ultimate cost of failure. There are even a couple of rather compelling twists along the way which force you to perhaps rethink your perspective on certain characters and events.
The Final Verdict
With all being said and done, Man of War by Sean Parnell is a magnificent first foray into fiction for the author, creating a memorable protagonist, a riveting and action-packed story full of absorbing details stemming from the author’s personal experiences. If you are a fan of military espionage action thrillers, then I highly recommend you give Man of War the shot it deserves; I cannot imagine any fan of the genre not being entertained by this work of writing.
Sean Parnell is currently an author and a former U.S. Army Airborne Ranger who had the distinction of serving in the 10th Mountain Division. At the moment he retired, Parnell had been awarded the Purple Heart as well as two Bronze Stars.
As is very often the case, Parnell did not forsake military life after retirement, serving as an ambassador to a veteran’s charity called the Boot Campaign. So far he wrote one book, co-authored alongside John Burning: Outlaw Platoon