When Richard Duvall’s techno thriller novel The Ox Factor: China Invades the US – Can America Survive? came out in late 2013, its premise could have seemed to some to be too far-fetched, too militaristically overcharged, and even harboring a borderline xenophobic reaction to China.
But, oh my, what a mere 20 months has done! Here in 2015, The Ox Factor’s premise of a Chinese invasion of the US in 2027 seems far more plausible. The last year has witnessed China’s continued GDP growth with its ever-increasing “ownership” of American debt; its geographical and military expansion into the South China Sea; its cyber-attacks on the US, including the hacking of personnel files on 18 million US employees and the hacking of SONY by its puppet North Korea. And all of this has resulted in ever-increasing tensions between the US and China. Just a few days ago, the Obama administration warned China about its covert agents operating in the US.
So, to read The Ox Factor now is to believe that by 2027 China has surreptitiously wormed its way into the US military cyber systems. By 2027 America has placed its heaviest reliance upon those cyber systems and unmanned warfare, because of shrinking budgets. And then China shuts both down. With that done, one million Chinese troops invade the US, totally surprising the US command structure and rapidly moving to seize not just western states, but Gulf States as well. Duvall has, to this lay reader, extensive knowledge of military weaponry and command structures, all controlled by a Chinese supercomputer. Duvall deftly and chillingly dispels readers’ doubts that such an invasion could occur.
The action is fast, taking place over a six week period. It reminds me of several authors, Tom Clancy among them. The Ox Factor cuts back and forth between the Chinese vantage point and several American vantage points: that of US Navy sub fleets, of Army posts, of National Guard units, of US President Elizabeth Rutledge (at last, a woman President!), of a hacker genius named “OX” whom Rutledge is forced to trust and work with, of patriotic Chinese-Americans, of Black and Hispanic gangs, of white militias—and more.
With American satellites seized and its worldwide command structure hijacked, America’s Air Force and Naval capacity has been destroyed or incapacitated and its land forces isolated. The action ranges in focus from the East Coast, with a near-paralytic Washington, to Montana, to the urban jungle of Los Angeles, to Canada, and even out in the Pacific itself, where a lone sub has managed (with Australia’s surreptitious aid) to elude the destruction of most of the US Navy by the Chinese.
Blackmail and extortion have a juicy part to play in the plot. European countries and others are “virtually” (double meaning intended) blackmailed into submission by the Chinese. In essence, “Try to help and we do the same to you.” There are Chinese-Americans being blackmailed into helping by threats to their families back in China. And American moles are present in the Chinese commend structure. It would be understandable for someone reading this review to assume the scenario is far-fetched, but once this reader gave into to the fast paced action, a la Clancy, and ignored the occasional two-dimensional minor characters, the ride was a thriller.
As that action is rolling out, President Rutledge works with Ox, fighting to save the Union as states fall one by one, and as Rutledge is being addressed by the leading Chinese military commander as the “former President” of a defeated nation. China threatens worse than a mere invasion if she does not publicly surrender.
It is difficult to review a thriller without revealing the plot, but let’s just say that Rutledge proposes a solution to save the Union that is unique in this reviewer’s reading! The character of President Rutledge is good. She fights with Congress on Capitol Hill, not to mention with her own father, who “just happens” to hold a top position in the American military. So she is at once hosting Family Feud and jockeying with the Department of Defense. These and other conflicts go on as subplots of (and fuel for) the drama.
Author Richard Duvall, who very sadly passed away as his book was coming out, provides us with many surprises. He offers some excellent insights into the American political and military landscape, which he presents in liberal/conservative jousts between those on the right and left, whether on Capitol Hill, or in a family in Montana, or in the barrios of LA. Duvall had the benefit of merchant marine service in World War II, of US Army service in the Korean War, and of extensive work and travel in China. Duvall obviously deeply respects the Chinese people, but underlying the entire novel is a common truth forgotten by some today: China is a dictatorship that has skillfully, and ironically, fostered rapid capitalistic growth under a communist government. Marx, Engels and Mao must be spinning in their graves.
Using his rich life experience, he makes observations on paradoxes of American politics through his characters. He lets some of them engage in a bit of polemics, which can seem a bit much at times. One such occurs in Montana, where a very conservative father and his very liberal daughter heatedly argue over the militias and other ultra-right organizations that portray themselves as saviors of America. An abrupt end to that argument comes as the father stops to say hello to his friend Nestor Ruiz, a young Latino man sporting gang tattoos, who has just entered the room. He and his family had moved to Montana to escape LA’s gangs and Nestor’s brother just happens to be “a Navy officer.” Now you see the connective tissue between Montana and Los Angeles.
The notion that an entire war could initially begin by cyber-attack has certainly been given legs by hackers recently having shut down entire retail chains, invading SONY’s most confidential records, and hacking US government employee records.
And that brings us back to the character for which the book is named, the genius computer hacker Ox. No, there’s no spoiler alert here. Ox’s identity is safe—that is, until you read Duvall’s novel, The Ox Factor: China Invades the US-Can America Survive? which I think would also make a great movie. Get your copy now — and keep watching the news!
The Ox Factor: China Invades the US-Can America Survive?: Published by Northshire Bookstore (November 26, 2013); paperback, 542 pages long; available in stores and on Amazon in Kindle and paperback.