I caught the reference to this novel right off the bat – the Ten Thousand is a reference to the like number of Greek mercenaries who signed up under Cyrus the Younger (a Persian linage queue-jumper)around 400BC. They began their trek in Ionia (western Turkey) and marched and fought all the way to Central Babylonia where their employer (and all their generals) were killed. Left without supplies in the middle of a hostile empire, totally cut off, they hoisted their thirty pound hoplon shields and turned due north, driving towards the distant Black Sea.
Which is why, when I saw a book in a used bookstore with this name and a stylized drawing of a tank, I had to check it out.
Harold Coyle, who made himself a name way back in my college days with Team Yankee, does it again with The Ten Thousand. In the book, we have the perfect storm – a foolishly bold American assault on the Ukraine to seize illegal nukes, launched from a reunified Germany run by an angry politician (who still keeps his Hitler Youth dagger hidden in his desk), runs into trouble. Big trouble, in the way that only desperate Ukrainian officers, sealed in a bunker with a couple of illegal warheads and a “in case of emergency, push button” solution can create. Blinking away the mushroom-cloud after-effects, the American armor group sends the remaining nukes to an American base in Germany, breaking several protocols and allowing the power-mad German leader to seize them. When they are told to lay down their weapons and surrender, the group decides that they, like Xenophon and his mercenaries, are going to drive to the sea (in this case, the Baltic)
This sets the stage for a series of modern engagements (many of which are mapped in the back of the book, helping the reader to see just where everyone is). And on it goes, the various American characters (virtuous or otherwise) slogging away, the Germans either stanchly defending or conscientious objecting, the politicians maneuvering and bargaining. It’s an interesting story that follows several points-of-view, bringing all the combatants together for one more heart-in-mouth skirmish (including a “who got shot?” moment). All good fun.
I read it over the San Diego train weekend and enjoyed it. It was a great airplane book, one that I could read while my seatmates sulked at not being able to turn on their Ipuds. If you see it on the shelf, you might consider it. I rather liked it.