"Dragonfire" is Hawksley's sequel to "Dragonstrike: The Millenium War", of which he was co-author. Like his previous offering, this book too is a tense thriller about a futuristic Indo-Pak-China war, and the subsequent nuclear holocaust that envelops the subcontinent. The whole book describes a chain of events from 2 May 2007 to 8 May 2007, wherein all the major powers of the 21st century are sucked into a web of deceit and political espionage.
Right from the very first page, the reader is caught in the constant political and military tension that exists between a hostile India and Pakistan, and the latter's staunch ally China. India supports Tibet in her struggle against Chinese rule, and has over the years recruited a team of soldiers, the Special Frontier Force (SFF), who seize a prison and release a political prisoner, a Tibetan monk, who could single-handedly alter the face of the lukewarm anti-Chinese revolution in his country. This becomes a major bone of contention between India and China, and Pakistan adds fuel to fire, first by overthrowing her ruling government and establishing martial law, and then by attacking and demolishing Kargil in India.
Chaos reigns supreme, as the leaders of the warring countries play a deadly game of cat and mouse, creating ripples in the international community, and forcing Japan, the US, and Russia among others to interfere and plead for a cease-fire. Worst of all, the sparring neighbours mobilize their nuclear arsenals, disregarding the urgent pleas of the rest of the world, and what ensues in the pages of the novel is the ultimate fight to the finish...the question being, who will emerge victorious? Or rather - can anyone emerge victorious?! Because when three nuclear powers are at war, no amount of interference by any superpower or the United Nations can remedy the situation...
The characters are well drawn out, and very believable, possibly because of the troubled times we live in. The pace of the novel is fairly good, never slackening so much as to lose the attention of the reader. Although I felt that the author did tend to go overboard with the technicalities (taking pains to name every weapon, armoured vehicle and warship, often giving lengthy descriptions of each one of them), it is evident that the facts have been very thoroughly researched. The book draws extensively from factual material and recent historic political and military conflicts, which lends it an air of credibility.
All in all, "Dragonfire" is a remarkable book, held together not only by the prowess of the author, but also by the sheer magnitude of the problems it addresses...problems which, if not cleared up, could one day result in the destruction of entire countries. For people like us, who live in countries constantly teetering on the brink of war and extinction, as a result of our hostile relations with our neighbours, this one's well worth a read. By painting a vivid picture of a nightmare that is simply waiting to happen, Hawksley may well have achieved what he set out to do.This article was first published on 06 Feb 2001.