Review of Sting of the Drone by Richard A. Clarke

Sting of the DroneSting of the Drone by Richard A. Clarke
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

It’s been a long time since I gave 5 stars to a book, but this one had me eager to turn the next page all the way through. As the title and reviews indicate, it is themed entirely on drones, in particular, military drones, although a few civilian ones play a role.

Of course, drones are a controversial topic, with objectors conjuring up visions of Big Brother and an oppressive surveillance society, while supporters, apparently including the author, are glad the U.S. finally has an effective weapon against the jihadists bent on attacking and killing Americans. I see both sides of that argument and the politics of it play no role in my rating. I just thought it was an exciting thriller. Of course there are plenty of explosions, death, and cool technology described, so if that’s not your thing, skip it.

Full disclosure: I’m a retired FBI agent and an owner of a DJI Phantom quadrotor, i.e. “drone”, so perhaps that colors my view. Drones can be useful tools for public safety agencies, including fire and police departments. I use mine responsibly for aerial photography, such as for scenery or videoing events (at the request of the organizer). I think of it as an aerial tripod, that’s all. I don’t spy on people and I don’t fly where it would bother people or endanger anyone. I wish I could say the same about all multirotor owners, but there have been some pretty irresponsible folks posting videos of crashes or injuries (of the drone or its owner, not cars or others) they caused by flying irresponsibly, so I don’t want my positive review of the book to suggest I approve of the sort of reckless cowboy mentality some owners have. Real life is not a video game, folks.

I will also say that, based on the FBI scenes in the book, there is a lot of exaggeration of the capabilities of the technology and an understatement of the bureaucracy involved. I doubt drones can do half of what is depicted, at least with the ease and efficiency described in the book. That’s okay; this is fiction. A real-life James Bond couldn’t do the things the book/movie version does, either. Just read it for its entertainment value and you’ll enjoy it.

P.S. Several Goodreads reviewers pointed out some typos or other errors. I checked where they indicated and my library copy is free of the mistakes mentioned. They seem to have been fixed in the final editing.

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