Sirk TV Book Review: TIPPING POINT [St. Martin’s Press]
An inkling that changes the perception of command is always wrought by experience and by aspects of lifestyle. A true commander can always understand what it is to win by understanding what he has to lose. “Tipping Point” [David Poyer/St. Martin’s Press/320pgs] is an interesting exercise in that it is really two separate entities. Firstly, it is a character study of a man on his way down, almost disgraced by making a debated command decision in peacetime. He shot down a missile fired by one of the U.S. Allies while on patrol off of Iran. He is made to explain his decision in front of a Senate subcommittee while his wife (well placed in the Department Of Defense) is about to make a Senate run. The aspects of politics work very well here as one can see the intrinsic element of duty versus personal as he is pulled back from his active duty as CO. This progression itself is more low budget and wonderfully detailed and would make an interesting limited series on say Amazon or Netflix. However the second half of the book switches into war mode but not genre swinging like “The Last Ship”. It places his command of a smaller destroyer in a battle group first back in the immediate impact of a tsunami like the one in 2004 then in the impending tit-for-tat that ensues among the resounding powers including China. This seems like too much of a coincidence as then the tensions between Pakistan and India flare up which results in a nuclear exchange that fans all sorts of flame leading to the brink of World War III. The book is good on details but the second half’s real strength is showing how the command structure works, again with this CO on his battleship. He deals with the normal admin but specific with an outbreak of an unspecified virus (not an end all but one that does pull back the performance of his crew in wartime) as well as sexual assault, subordination and eventually rape which occurs (the ship is obviously crewed by both men and women). This dynamic provides an interesting and stark real world view (however accurate it may be) on some specific issues that might come up in a larger conflict (should it occur in reality). The author however sets the stakes obviously high and the second half is radically different from the first half. Beyond that, it ends on a sort of open end or cliffhanger which is interesting but not particularly well structured. Still there are many intriguing things about the experiment here.