Incident at Dak To by Louis Edward Rosas

Incident at Dak To (257 pp. $14.95, paper; $4.99, Kindle) by Louis Edward Rosas is a very enjoyable military-procedural science fiction story that brings to mind pulp novels of the Vietnam War era. If this book had been serialized in a monthly science fiction magazine 50 years ago it would have been well received.

In the book, we learn that Army Capt. Jay Swift wrote his Vietnam War story in a pocket journal in 1967, making it possible for him to relate it to us today. Swift and his buddy Fred Mason apparently worked for the CIA in Vietnam. They experienced combat in the war and still occasionally wore their Army uniforms, but mainly worked in civilian clothes. When asked what they did they said, “We are field analysts.” Their official job was to “locate and acquire exotic foreign technologies,” meaning things the Soviets and Chinese may have been ahead of the U.S. on, with the goal of reverse-engineering the stuff to our nation’s advantage.

They get called off an assignment in the Middle East to go to Vietnam to investigate an object of unknown origin that’s been recovered from a crash site near Dak To. The site, Rosas writes, “is smack in the middle of an enemy tunnel complex that was nearly overrun by combined NVA and Viet Cong forces. Whatever crashed there is of deep interest to them.” The recovered object was placed in a supposedly secure vault in the basement at the American Embassy, but then disappeared.

There had been reports of a fast-moving aircraft that “appeared as a glowing light in the night sky.” The object seemed to carry a “radiation signature,” and Swift’s initial thinking was that his assignment probably didn’t have anything to do with the war, and that whatever the object was had just dropped into the war zone. The two men are put up in an air-conditioned room with bulletproof windows in Saigon’s Caravelle Hotel where they worked day and night trying to get to the bottom of the mystery object.

The fun kicks in when Swift is told of “a blue-white fireball,” a “large impact crater,” a weird fog that suddenly appeared, and M16s that were strangely disabled. Then come missing witnesses, dissolving bullets, and encounters with Men in Black who walk through walls and always seem to be one step ahead of Swift and Mason.

This fast-moving story is told sometimes in third person, other times in first person, in cinematic-like form. Louis Edward Rosas, whose father served in the U.S. Army in the Vietnam War, never gets in the way of his storytelling as he takes the reader on a wild ride.

–Bill McCloud

Saucer: Savage Planet by Stephen Coonts

Stephen Coonts is a former Navy aviator who flew A-6 Intruders in the Vietnam War. Coonts has produced a steady stream of books since his first novel, Flight of the Intruder, became a big bestseller in 1986.

That includes three books in his “Saucer” series, the third and final of which is Savage Planet (St. Martin’s Griffin, 352 pp., $27.99, hardcover; $15.99, paper). Savage Planet features a returning cast of players, many of whom had major roles in the first two books, which I have not read.  

I do not recommend that Coonts fans start reading this series at the third book. It would benefit them to buy the whole series and read them lickety-split, as this sort of thriller makes the reader want to find out just what the heck is going to happen next and if anything really bad will happen to one of the heroes.

I highly recommend the third book to those who have read the first two, as I found it enthralling and exciting, even though I started at the end of the series.

Savage Planet is a rousing space adventure yarn in the spirit of the great science fiction epics of the 1950s. Plenty of one-dimensional bad guys and thugs throw spanners into the good works that the good guys are trying to do. Thriller-adventure novels are only as good as their villains, and the villains in this series are from the world of Big Pharma. They are on a quest to find a med that is the equivalent of the Fountain of Youth.

       Stephen Coonts

The good guys have the sort of names such as the heroes had in books of my youth: Adam Solo, Rip Cantrell, “Charley” Pine, Uncle Egg. One of these intrepid heroes, by the way, is  a woman.

The character I enjoyed the most was Adam Solo, an alien stranded on earth a thousand years ago. He occasionally coughs up references to incidents and adventures from his tenure on this savage planet. He is intrepid, resourceful, and occasionally borderline witty. Also this hero is a librarian or claims to be. I love it when an action hero is a librarian.

Savage Planet presents a mostly optimistic vision of our planetary future. That’s a welcome diversion in these dire, doom-laden times. If you are in the mood to escape into the fun of reading an old-fashioned thriller SF novel, I recommend this trilogy.  

The author’s website is

—David Willson

Some of the Best by Thomas Calabrese

Amazon  tells us that Thomas Calabrese’s Some of the Best (Amazon Digital Services, 220 pp., $2.99, Kindle) is an “action adventure story set against the backdrop of the Vietnam War.” That is true as far as it goes— which isn’t quite far enough. The garish cover, showing a set of otherworldly staring eyes under the edge of a helmet, visually communicates elements of fantasy and science fiction.

Calabrese, a VVA member, dedicates the book to the men of Lima Company, Third Battalion, 26th Marines. He goes on to say that the book was “inspired by true events.”  It’s safe to assume that Calabrese was a member of that unit. His use of detail, rank, and other Marine Corps details is the result of more than just arduous research. The book seems to be written by someone who has been there and back.

The cast of Marine Corps characters includes Ward, Berkeley, Thornton, Mac, and the narrator, Gaetano.  A machine gunner, Gaetano is a man who envisioned himself as a Fighting Leatherneck based partly on the images of John Wayne he saw in the movie Sands of Iwo Jima, John Garfield in Pride of the Marines, and Van Heflin in Battle Cry. Gaetano idolizes another Marine he meets in Vietnam, a man he identifies as “a strange one.”  The strange one becomes the “quiet Marine.”

The narrator says of the quiet Marine: He “seems to know exactly where he is going, unlike the rest of us.”

In this book the reader must pay close attention or he’ll miss something important to know, something about the essence of the Eternal Soldier. I don’t want to spoil anything, so that’s all I’ll say about that. That quiet Marine, by the way, becomes a sergeant who leads his men, including Gaetano, through an amazing series of combat situations.

There is enough killing here to fill up a dozen other books of this sort. There also are plenty of grisly scenes of Marines violating the Geneva Convention by—among other things—whacking the heads off dead enemy soldiers.

We get some of the usual Vietnam War stuff in this novel, including mentions of ham and lima beans, immersion foot, and R&R’s. But a lot here is new and different. Calabrese uses the techniques of magical realism, fantasy, and dreamscape to take us into new realms, including poppy fields where Taliban forces are lurking.

Some of the Best reminds me of a couple of Joe Haldeman science fiction classics, including War Year, right down to the cover. That is high praise.

—David Willson

The Black Heart by Michael Fuson

The author of The Black Heart (CreateSpace, 448 pp., $19.95, paper), T. Michael Fuson, was a Chief Warrant Officer in the U. S. Army and flew helicopter gunships during his 1969-70 tour based out of Chi Lai in South Vietnam.

He has used that experience and his research into anti-gravity propulsion to produce an alternate-reality novel that proposes that some slight variations in the Vietnam War, such as “rapid deployment of small nuclear arms,” might “have caused significant differences in today’s world.”  That might be an understatement.

Fuson has written a strange and thought-provoking science-based thriller. His website is

—David Willson