OKINAWA by FX Holden is a riveting take on the near future of warfare and global politics.
In 1942, Chinese-American soldier John Chen interrogates captured Japanese pilot Tadao Kato. In 2033, Japan and China sign a landmark treaty, and Chen and Kato’s great-grandchildren, Li Chen and Takuya Kato, are both pilots ordered to participate in the first-ever Sino-Japanese joint military exercises. But the supposedly peaceful Operation Red Dove turns deadly when a secret government-funded Chinese hacking group takes control of a DARPA drone and targets American Navy assets on Okinawa. Takuya’s friend Mitsuko, a political radical, may be the only person who can stave off a global war—because the death of her father has just made her Japan’s first empress.
This page-turner is filled with extensive cultural, interpersonal, and tactical detail, from the unspoken meaning in a cup of tea to the military decisions that move battleships. Holden (a pen name for Australian journalist Tim Slee) dispenses with stereotypes and crafts well-defined characters from multiple countries. Particularly memorable are the many richly characterized women, including outspoken, driven Mitsuko; brassy Australian drone pilot Karen “Bunny” O’Hare; conflicted hotshot Li Chen; brilliant hacker Frangipani; and big-hearted 103-year-old gardener Noriko Fukada. The human face they put on the conflict makes each development feel real and evoke powerful emotions.
The crisp dialogue is a pleasure to read and balances the tension with genuine laughs. (“Don’t lose those,” Bunny tells a sonar tech taking custody of her facial piercing jewelry. “I’m both sentimental and violent.”) Readers will be on the edges of their seats as Holden ratchets up the danger to civilians as well as sailors and pilots. This military thriller, which honors servicepeople while strongly questioning the value of war, is both highly enjoyable and deeply thought-provoking.
Takeaway: Any fan of military thrillers will be riveted by this near-future novel that sets Japan, China, and the U.S. at the brink of war.
Great for fans of Hiroshi Sakurazaka’s All You Need Is Kill, Clive Cussler’s Oregon Files.
Design and typography: B
Marketing copy: B