This story begins with a preface (about 5% of the work’s length) about how science fiction could influence military planning, but my comments will be limited to the fictional portion of the work. I’ve tried to avoid writing anything specific enough to be a spoiler, although there is some information about the structure/flow of the story.
The setup for the plot is good, with interactions between civilian and military characters that seemed believable to me. The action starts about halfway through, when the characters have to deal with a crisis which the entire story has been leading towards. At this point I’m weighing a couple of possible options for resolving the crisis and wondering which one the author will choose. But then, out of nowhere, crisis #2 strikes. Due to its nature, crisis #2 has to be dealt with by the same people as crisis #1, and at the same time. Now I’m hooked; how will they resolve two crises simultaneously? Crisis #1 gets resolved, but then the story lets me down. After the great double-crisis buildup, the resolution of crisis #2 isn’t shown. The story fast-forwards to the characters sitting around talking about how great it was that they were able to deal with crisis #2. It reminded me of a time I was watching an action movie and I didn’t realize all the scenes with explosions had been censored. At first, I thought the director was making a joke: the heroes would set up for an attack, and in the next scene they’d be going “yeah, we sure showed them!” When I realized all the best stuff had actually been cut from the movie, I felt ripped off.
The good setup before the action and the surprise second crisis make this an above-average story. There wasn’t anything new (in science fiction terms) to the manned fighter versus drones matchup, so it didn’t spark my imagination the way a 4 out of 4 story would. The story was well written; there were a couple of minor editing errors such as “a” in place of “at”, but they were rare enough that they didn’t really distract me.