Rolling Thunder is set in the Vietnam War and primarily follows pilot Court Bannister, the son of a famous actor. He is initially known for his famous father, but gradually becomes known and admired for his flying skills, with the novel following him for a year-long tour of duty. Other characters also make regular appearances, notably Toby Parker and Wolf Lochert.
Whilst the novel focuses primarily on the characters mentioned above, the political decision makes are also referenced, with the military shown to be having a difficult job of persuading the politicians of what needs to be done and why. Most of Bannister’s missions are relatively uneventful, which adds to the realism of the novel; the frustrations of the military in politics taking precedence over tactics adds to this.
There are some good action sequences, especially the raid on the airbase and Bannister’s encounter with MiGs. The action is realistic and not over the top, which keeps the realism. Bannister may be the central character, but he flies with pilots better than himself and is not single-handedly winning the war. The breaks from the war-zone to decisions being made in Washington keep the novel progressing well and it effectively shows how quickly the soldiers and pilots become hardened by their experiences.
Rating (out of 5): ****