Saturday, 12 October 2013

Caesar the war dog – operation blue dragon

Caesar the war dog – operation blue dragon by Stephen Dando-Collins (Random House Australia)
PB RRP $16.95
ISBN 9780857980533
Also available as an ebook
ISBN 9780857980540
Reviewed by Marian McGuinness

Stephen Dando-Collins. Take a bow. For the past nights I have been living your story. You had me hooked from the opening paragraph – the setting, Sydney Harbour, a black hawk helicopter; Sergeant Ben Fulton in full camouflage gear, an ‘automatic pistol was strapped low on his right thigh, and a rappelling harness covered his torso.’ And at the end of the paragraph,  ‘two small pouches … the smaller one containing dog biscuits.’

Caesar is an EDD, an explosive detection dog. He follows a long line of war dogs, the first serving with the Anzac troops during the First World War. The Caesar of Dando-Collins’ first book was based on the true story of an explosives dog that went missing in Afghanistan. Book 2 – operation blue dragon, fictionally continues Caesar’s extraordinary career. He’s found after missing in action in a gruelling firefight with the Taliban. Just as he is reunited with his handler and best friend, Sergeant Ben Fulton, Dr Park, the Secretary-General of the UN’s helicopter is ambushed. Dr Park is kidnapped by the Taliban and held in a secret cave location, code-named blue dragon. All stops are pulled out to find and rescue him.

There are several stories at play. On another tangent is Charlie’s story; he’s a crack member of the SAS. His legs have been blown off by an IED. He has to prove himself all over again when he is fitted with zoomers (similar to the blades that paraolympians wear).

Sergeant Fulton’s son, Josh, holds the 3rd tier in the storyline. Targeted by the school bully, Josh is taunted with ‘Dog Boy’ and has his possessions stolen.

This is boys-own adventure writing. It is fast-paced, gritty, filled with intrigue and derring-do. The fact that it is set in an area of current confrontation makes it all that more real for the reader. There are drones, frags, Green Berets and the CIA. And if you don’t know the lingo that Dando-Collins uses, there’s an extensive glossary at the back that gives great explanations of military terms.

A book for boys? Definitely. I can imagine boys 10+ glued to this book (and their fathers). Not only is it an education about what happens in these treacherous war zones, it’s adrenalin-pumping and filled with high adventure.

Dando-Collins has more than 30 books to his moniker. Many have military themes. He has won several prestigious prizes for his writing. No wonder the reviewer at the Herald Sun tagged ‘Caesar the war dog – operation blue dragon’ as ‘One of the best war stories I have read’.

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