Raven One by Kevin P. Miller (Book Review)

Raven One by Kevin Miller was quite possibly one of the most enjoyable reads I’ve had in a military genre book. After coming off a series of boring technical manuals from Tom Clancy, Red Storm Rising and The Cardinal in the Kremlin, Raven One was a refreshing, suspenseful, and riveting reading experience.


From the tightly written prose, to the realistic characters, to the authentic portrayal of life on an aircraft carrier, this book is the pinnacle of quality military fiction. What Raven One lacks in plot is more than made up for in terms of excellent characters who feel unique and distinct from each other.


I think it’s safe to say that most of us who have not been in the military or have military friends might assume that these pilots, soldiers, engineers would be composed of professional men and women working towards the same goal. Everyone that’s Captain rank or higher is expected to be highly proficient at their job and deserve to wear the insignias on their shoulders.


Turns out being in the military can potentially be the same as working at a corporate job. People who don’t deserve to be paid more than you and are incompetent at doing their jobs exist in the military too. Miller highlights this point by introducing us to XO, 2nd in command, “Saint” who tries to rule the squadron with an iron fist while the commander “Cajun” is away. Our main character “Flip” Wilson is subordinate to these two characters and is constantly subjected to Saint’s stupidity.


From forcing him to write up some BS reports about maintenance and crew rotations to suggesting an idiotic bombing route that could get the entire squadron killed. Saint is quite possibly the most despicable character I’ve read that comes close to mimicking real life. Saint is a coward, lacks the backbone to stand up to his superiors, and constantly burdens the squadron with unnecessary busy work while also chastising them for his mistakes.


Sound familiar? If so, I am sorry for your frustrations.


The characters feel incredibly authentic and the details Miller weaves into the book makes me feel like I’m living on an aircraft carrier with a bunch of hot shot pilots. This ain’t no Tom Cruise, Top Gun movie where authenticity was second place to action and excitement. No, Raven One is a realistic experience told from a retired Navy Fighter pilot which also means that some of the jargon can and will go over your head.


As someone who loves military fiction, technology, tactics, and lingo. There were several terms in this book that flew over my head. Thankfully, the beginning of the book includes a glossary of most of the terms that will be used throughout the novel. So if you don’t know what JDAM, CAG, Angels,  or CAS means, don’t worry, just jump back to the front and look it up.


Now generally, whenever a book includes a lot of jargon it can sometimes mean that the prose is dreadfully boring. I mean, just look at a Tom Clancy book which is filled with jargon and technical mumbo jumbo that will put even a die hard military fan to sleep. Not the case with Raven One. In fact, one of the best things about this book was how Miller crafted his prose to make you experience a dangerous nighttime carrier landing.


He throws in some technical lingo at you but then follows up with a very simple, clear, direct explanation of whatever he mentioned. Let me tell you, when I read about a junior pilot getting ready to land on an aircraft carrier at night, during a storm, with low fuel, and had to be caught in a net rather than the arrestor cables, my heart pounded.


I was so engrossed in the descriptions of the scene that I didn’t even realize the train conductor next to me was asking for my ticket during my commute to New York. It was THAT good.


What was especially surprising and refreshing to see was that our main character Lt. Commander “Flip” Wilson is black! I must have gone halfway through the book without putting any race identifiers onto “Flip” until a-hole XO “Saint” decided to make a comment about his race.


Just the fact that “Flip” was black made me love this book even more because it emphasized how race isn’t important in the grand scheme of things. “Flip” can fly and is one of their best pilots and a great leader and that’s all that mattered, not his skin color. So good, so refreshing, so much more entertaining than boring old Clancy.


In closing, this book has action, it has a strong human connection, it’s suspenseful, and it totally immerses you in the world of navy fighter pilots. Though it has no grand plot with surprising twists and government conspiracies, it didn’t really need one. A day in the life of a navy fighter pilot is more than enough content to keep you riveted until the last page.


If you love jets, military fiction, and great, descriptive prose, then do not pass up the opportunity to read Raven One.

Wilmar Luna