The Farm by Charles C. Anderson (Review #2)

Reviewed by Douglas R. Cobb

There are many ways to become a marked man in this life. One is to have secrets that powerful individuals fear getting out and becoming public knowledge. For former Navy SEAL and medical doctor Andy Carlson, it’s also about having a deeply ingrained sense of morality. If the secret you’re guarding threatens countless human lives, and could potentially endanger national security, one’s priorities should shift from closely guarding secrets to deciding to throw in the towel as a good soldier. In the edge-of-your-seat page-turner, The Farm, by the talented author Charles C. Anderson, that’s just what Carlson does–he resigns from the SEALs, though he still remains a member of the Reserves. The evidence he discovers suggests that the U.S. government is secretly buying old Soviet tactical nuclear weapons for purposes other than disarmament.

Leaving behind his old life as a Navy SEAL, where he followed orders without asking too many questions, a life where he killed whoever he was either ordered to kill or who was an obstacle to his mission, and resuming his career as an emergency physician, does not mean other interested parties are through with him. Repercussions emanating from his final mission, in which he and his friend Josiah (Joe) Chambers are inserted into the Saudi Arabian desert by helicopter. Joe dies when the helicopter they’re flying in blows up during a sandstorm, but Andy, the first one out of the plane, survives. He carries out his mission, and rescues a then sixteen-year-old young woman from sexual abuse and possibly getting tortured and murdered.

Andy Carlson’s resignation from the SEALs and his return to his family’s ancestral farm in Virginia called “The Farm,” is not enough to deter certain interested parties from attempting to kill him and eliminate the possibility the secrets he knows will ever become public knowledge. The CIA is after Carlson, as are Russian arms dealers. Can one man hope to survive such a determined onslaught of pursuers?

The Farm is a richly complex novel, one that is extremely well-researched. Charles C. Anderson has created intense, larger-that-life three-dimensional characters, and, as in his novel The First To Say No, he displays an impressive knowledge of the medical profession and history. That’s because Anderson is, himself, a retired Naval officer, and emergency physician, and a weapons specialist, and he lives in Virginia at the actual plantation known as The Farm that’s almost like a character in its own right in his novel. Anderson writes with immense authority about the history of The Farm, Farmville, and Virginia, because he and his family have lived there for generations. It’s been in his family since 1743, and has played an important role throughout America’s history. Knowing that the place called The Farm is an actual plantation with tunnels and caves underneath it and the grounds where it’s built upon made the novel pop for me.

I had not known before reading The Farm how vital the place Hampton Roads which Anderson writes about is to America. Four nuclear carriers could be destroyed if a nuclear warhead went off there, at “the only shipyard capable of building those Nimitz class carriers.” This would be both militarily and economically crippling to the United States. As Andy tells the CIA agent, Lindsey: “The last time I heard, each carrier cost five billion dollars and each took five years to build.”

When Andy’s friend Joe Chambers died on his last mission in Saudi Arabia, Andy had to hold back his emotions, to get back to America alive and in one piece. The experience made him into a functioning alcoholic, and because of that experience, and others we read about in The Farm, it’s with good reason that Andy thinks of the Deputy Director of the CIA, James Harrison, as the Weasel. Harrison is a cunning, resourceful person, but he’s also very self-serving. Carlson discovers that the Weasel’s interest in Russian nuclear warheads has nothing at all to do with a desire to make sure Russia is complying with disarmament. Instead, he has something much more sinister in mind:

“Is that your goal, to disarm these warheads permanently?” Andy asked.

“What else could we do with them?”

“You could use them to blame some nuclear terrorist act on somebody else,” Andy said.

“You’re asking me to believe the best from you when all I’ve seen is your worst side.”

Andy has a few tricks up his sleeve, like his intimate knowledge of The Farm, its tunnel and cave systems, and other aspects of the fortress-like plantation, and three allies who I won’t get into much in this review as they’re mentioned elsewhere in other reviews. Reading about the strategies he uses against the CIA and Russians was very fascinating. Will Andy’s expertise with weapons, his medical knowledge, and The Farm itself, enable him to outwit and defeat his foes? Read the excellent novel The Farm to find out!

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