Storming Intrepid Spoiler Free Book Review

Sometimes the story of our relationship with a book is as interesting as the book itself. In the case of my relationship with Storming Intrepid by Payne Harrison, it is more about timing. But as I have finally read this book completely, perhaps for the first time, I want to explain just how good this book is and my relationship with it.

First published in 1988, before the fall of the Berlin Wall in late 1989, this book is about the Cold War and exists in a fictional timeline where the American Star Wars project is almost complete as the Space Defence Initiative (SDI), and the USSR is falling behind.

Of the many “official” descriptions on the listings of different editions, the simplest and most complete explanation is this:

What begins as a routine voyage of a space shuttle carrying Star Wars technology, turns into a harrowing nightmare in outer space when a Russian agent seizes command of the vehicle. The President is prepared to use everything from stealth bombers and SR-71 Blackbirds to untested space fighters, as this precedent-shattering confrontation hurtles toward its tension-crackling climax.

In 1990, a paperback edition was published with a space shuttle on the back cover. It is this cover that an 11- or 12-year-old me picked up a couple of years later along with a paperback copy of Jurassic Park.

These two paperbacks are taken with me to a four-week summer sleepaway camp. I remember reading all of Jurassic Park, but I do not remember finishing Storming Intrepid at that time, though  I do remember starting it. It then sat on my shelf for decades until I finally picked it back up again to see what I remember and what I missed. 

I missed a lot. 

While my younger self wielded dual interests in the past and the future, as far as archaeology and paleontology can be held for a child interested in the past and the future of space and the final frontier of that technology, I only knew and could conceive of so much.

My reread of Jurassic Park enlightened me to concepts that definitely went over my head during my first read. As for Storming Intrepid, the technology is still comprehensible to a younger me, but the Cold War implications in this book were way beyond me. The political thriller nature of this book was something I could only understand at least a decade later when I was in college.

The point is, this book is amazing. It’s a gripping tale of space piracy within the context of the Cold War. It’s part espionage, part action thriller with proficient technological information, alternative history, and enough nods to Red Alert or Dr. Strangelove – perhaps both – to keep the stakes as high as possible.

As I opened the book this time around, I am a better student of history. I am well-read in spy fiction surrounding the Cold War, and as it happens I had just watched a great multi-part documentary on Nebula about the technology of the Space Shuttle. Take my word for it that you don’t need that background, though it is helpful to be old enough to understand political intrigue and general Cold War ephemera of some kind.

This book would never have landed that well for my much younger self. For decades-older me, this book was entertaining and hard to put down. If you enjoy espionage, thrillers, or alternative Cold War history, this book may be for you. Also, I recommend knowing as little as possible about the book before opening its pages, but that is completely up to you. 

In the end, I am happy that the cover caught my attention all those decades ago so that I might hold onto the book and finally enjoy it now. I pass this enjoyment on to you as a very high recommendation.