The Crimea has become one of the most dangerous places on the planet as it could spark a war that no one really wants, but for some that is exactly what they’re counting on. Dark Zone is the fourth book of the Op-Center reboot as original series author Jeff Rovin joins George Galdorisi as Op-Center is faced with rogue elements in Ukraine looking to start a war with Russia that will force NATO to join.
A female Ukrainian agent meets with the former U.S. ambassador in New York to get information about Russian military movements and is murdered by a Russian assassin then her fellow agent apart of the Ukrainian embassy is also murdered by the same assassin. The U.S. ambassador learning of his friend’s murder gets in contact with Op-Center about his conversation with her and that her apparent murderer keeps calling him with her phone. Director Williams sends a two-man team to meet the ambassador only for them to save his life from the assassin and his accomplice. Meanwhile in Russia, Putin appoints an ambitious yet cautious general to command an enlarged military base to project so much power against Ukraine that they will simply be defeated mentally. Unbeknownst to Russia is that a famous Ukrainian tank commander has set a trap for them which included the appearance online of a VR program of their huge military base which led to the murders in New York. Williams and Op-Center after finding the VR program come to the conclusion that a rogue faction in the Ukrainian military is planning to start a war between Russian and NATO with an attack on the base that will cause Russia to attack Ukraine. The Special Forces team is sent to the region to observe but in route they find the team that is to attack the base and send the force to intercept them. The Ukrainian commander leads a large assembly of tanks—out of nowhere—towards the border and the Russian commander response by leading his tanks to the border, leaving the base open for attack through the Op-Center Special Forces team is able to stop them just outside the Russian base though the Ukrainian team leader is killed by a sniper which causes a grenade explosion. The Russian commander is ordered back to the base, already relieved of command due to failing to secure his base; the retreat of the Russians from the border is a victory for the Ukrainian commander even though the attack on the base didn’t happen as his goal was to embarrass the big bad bear. Williams and Op-Center are happy to prevent a war, but they decide to prevent the next Russian assassin to take up station in New York by outing him to the NYPD who threaten to leave or die as a terrorist.
This was a great military-political thriller for anything connected with Ukraine and Russia, but Op-Center and their Special Forces team are just around. Honestly if this book did not have anything connected with Op-Center written in it this would have been a great exciting read, but because of the Op-Center stuff in it this is a middling book. Everything connected with Op-Center just felt like it was put in there because this was an Op-Center book, not that anything was particularly bad but as I got further into the book I cared less about what was happening in and around Op-Center or what they were going to do and see if the Ukrainian plan would work in anyway. I guess Rovin and Galdorisi were showing that sometimes Op-Center is blind to the realities on the ground and can sometimes only do little things to protect U.S. interests but that would effectively undermine the organization from a reader’s viewpoint so, I’m just confused as to the structure of this book.
Dark Zone is a mishmash book with one great story element and one that was just meh, unfortunately it was the series titular organization and their personnel that were the meh story element not that they were bad but because they weren’t interesting. Jeff Rovin in his return to the Op-Center series and George Galdorisi is what appears to be his last effort created a Ukrainian-Russian mini-conflict but totally failed to be relevance to Op-Center existence in a book in its own series.