Top positive review
Best Novel in the Series to Date
Reviewed in the United States on March 15, 2020
CRIMSON STAR is the best book to date in Peter Nealen's MAELSTROM RISING series.
Taking place a little before and concurrently with the first novel in the series, ESCALATION, CRIMSON STAR focuses on Hank Foss, a section leader (the equivalent of a platoon leader) in the Triarii's infantry branch, conducting counter-insurgency ops in the Phoenix area. The novel starts with a bang as Foss leads his section on a raid to kill or capture a high value target in an insurgent movement that is one part gang-banger and one part racial revolutionary.
Things quickly escalate when the American power grid is knocked out. That leads to an increase in enemy op tempo, and in turn leads to the Triarii stepping up their ops in Phoenix. Scenes you would expect to see in a depiction of a Third World civil war are painted vividly and horrifically as happening here at home, with the second act of the novel (wittingly or otherwise) serving as a cautionary tale against those who froth at the mouth to "kick off the Boogaloo."
The third act turns up the heat another notch, as the Chinese and their role in the affairs is revealed. This, in my opinion, is the best part of the novel. Nealen does a magnificent job acknowledging that the status quo with the Chinese is to make slow, deliberate moves, and then detailing what triggered them to graduate to more active measures against the United States. It is equal parts brilliant plotting and plausible speculation. Given that the Chinese's role and actions in the series was one of my sticking points as to the plausibility of the series, I was extremely impressed with how Nealen sold his extrapolation on current events.
My only gripe about CRIMSON STAR is that it ends very suddenly, but that is overshadowed by how amazing the rest of the novel was, and certainly not enough to detract a star from the rating.
Highly recommended reading.