Zulu 656 is a search and rescue ship, lightly armed but ruggedly built to withstand hits from space debris. After a rescue mission goes slightly wrong, a new captain is assigned to lead the veteran crew, who know each other well enough to finish each other’s sentences. As if breaking in a new — and obviously very green — captain wasn’t enough, shortly after that the ship is assigned to support a task force heading off into battle.
The task force is ambushed, setting up a wonderfully tense series of events that makes up the majority of the story. Adrift in a debris field made up of the remains of task force ships, Zulu 656’s crew must prevent their inexperienced captain from making a fatal mistake while they play cat-and-mouse with an enemy ship left behind to mop-up any survivors of the ambush. It’s claustrophobic, tense, riveting.
If you like submarine movies or books like Das Boot or The Enemy Below, you’ll really enjoy how the events in the debris field play out, but there are also elements of surprise and suspicion — could the captain be more than just an idiot? — that reminded me of the great Alistair MacLean novel Ice Station Zebra. Near the end there is a twist that took me by surprise.
I enjoyed this story quite a bit. Mr. Shryock does a wonderful job of grabbing the reader’s interest and holding it, no small feat considering much of the action is set in the cramped confines of Zulu 656. For more from this author, visit his website.