It’s not as bad as it seems, though. After all, he wrote the Jed Horn books in between AP novels and they were good reads. We figured we should get the lowdown on the things so we got our favorite laconic former Reconnaissance Marine in between scowling practice sessions to find out what’s up.
Turns out the new book is going be different from its predecessors in that it’s going to be written in the third person, from more than one perspective/POV. It is similar to the AP series in that it’s about PMC shooters — but not just from a different company (MMPR Inc.), it’s in a whole different milieu. Kill Yuan is a completely stand-alone novel.
The novel is available now. It centers around a counter-piracy mission and was at least in part inspired by the gameplay in Far Cry 3 — a game Nealen enjoyed but whose story he hated. Here’s a synopsis:
A Chinese frigate has deserted. Her captain has set himself up to become a pirate kingpin in the South China Sea, right along the primary trade route feeding into the Strait of Malacca. The contractors that Dan has joined have been hired to eliminate the pirates and liberate the oil company personnel on the islands that Captain Yuan has seized.
The title comes from their primary objective: they need to kill Shang Xiao Yuan, and right soon. The novel was originally slated to be 24 chapters or so. Pete tells us it’s up to 29 chapters now and has climbed past 85k words. He figures he has another 17k words or so to go…unless he goes all Robert Jordan/George RR Martin on us and quintuples the size while taking 25 years to do it.
Here’s an exclusive excerpt of Kill Yuan by Pete Nealen
They didn’t come in straight to the beach. That was definitely going to be a bad idea; while there probably weren’t many pirates left on the island, those that were there would doubtless have machine guns trained on the beach. None of the contractors were interested in staging a replay of Inchon. They described a wide arc out to the west before coming in on an apparently abandoned stretch of beach about a quarter of the way around the island. It was still going to be less than half a mile to the camp. Pulau Repong was not a large island.
Beaching the boats, they bailed out quickly. They had changed from skimpy vacation clothes to the Kryptek Mandrake pattern jungle cammies that they’d been supplied with. Dan wasn’t terribly impressed, but it seemed to generally do the trick in the shadows, particularly if the contractor wearing it was paying attention and moving properly.
The jungle was thick, leaves and vines from ground to upper canopy. Palm trees seemed to be some of the tallest, but there were more species than any of them could count. Not that they were concerned with the flora, aside from how it could conceal traps and ambushes. It also made movement a bitch. There was no clear footing, and the shooters of Alpha had to weave their way through the vines and broad, wet leaves carefully, trying to make as little noise as possible. Surprise was out of the question; obviously the pirates already knew they were there, and probably at least suspected they were coming. But they were probably pretty strung out, and Dan expected they would probably open fire at any odd sound they heard rather than take chances. None of the others had disagreed.
They were keeping a tight formation; there was no other option in the dense growth. Visibility was only a few meters at most. It was also steamy hot, and mist hung under the jungle canopy. Every one of them had been drenched by saltwater before they even hit the beach, but the jungle heat was adding sweat to their already sodden cammies and gear. Dan could feel his feet squelching in soaked socks in his lightweight hiking boots.
Vernon was on point, with the rest in a file behind him. He was taking his time, taking a step then pausing, looking around and listening, keeping his rifle up and ready, before taking the next step. It was terribly slow and laborious, but it was preferable to blundering into a mine, punji-pit, or ambush.
They could hear the pirates after half an hour, that had seen them cover just over two hundred meters. A babbling, bastard combination of Mandarin, Malay, and Javanese, they couldn’t understand anything that was being said, but it was loud and scared. There was also the occasional gunshot, usually answered by a harsh crack that was probably from one of the AI AXMC .300 WinMag rifles on the yacht. At this rate, Dan mused, the pirates might all be eliminated from the yacht by Lambert and the other snipers before the ground team even got there, if they kept being dumb enough to take potshots.
He didn’t signal Vernon to speed up, though. This kind of movement to contact required patience. Rushing was a good way to get killed, and none of them was interested in getting a shallow grave in the jungle in lieu of their fifty thousand a month.
When they finally broke out into the clearing that was the pirate outpost, though, none of the pirates were dug in waiting for them. Dan could see two crouched behind a fallen tree, facing the beach, and there was the noise of at least one more, possibly two, on the other side of a flimsy shack.
The six men quietly fanned out through the encampment. The place was miserable; a few nylon tents, a couple of fire pits, the shack, and a rickety-looking lookout tower were the only structures. There was trash everywhere, including a lot of liquor and beer bottles. A few piles of drug paraphernalia such as syringes and pipes suggested that alcohol was one of the tamest substances the pirates had indulged in to pass the time.
Dan was hoping to take at least one of the pirates alive, if only to make sure that there weren’t any more on the island, and that they hadn’t talked to Yuan’s people up on Matak over the radio. He kind of suspected that the radio was strictly controlled by the Chinese leadership, both of whom were now dead, but better safe than sorry.
But just as he was about to yell, “Bu xu dong!” Dave kicked a bottle.
It didn’t make a lot of noise, but it was enough for at least one of the pirates, in spite of the sporadic gunfire, to hear it and turn around. He yelled something, whipping his Type 56 around, his finger tightening on the trigger.
He died before he could bring the rifle to bear, as did the other three. Dan had already had his red dot on the man’s upper back, and simply squeezed the trigger as he turned. Rifles barked, and blood and bits of tissue sprayed from exit wounds as the pirates all perished within a fraction of a second of each other. The bodies slumped in unnatural positions as they fell against the logs they had been using as cover.
“Systematic clear and search,” Dan said into the sudden quiet. “I doubt there’s going to be a lot of useful intel here, but anything we can scrape together. And I know I don’t have to say it, but keep an eye out in case there are more.”
In pairs, tracing a clockwise circle around the camp, they checked the shack and the tents. They found nothing but booze, drugs, and porn. There was a radio in the shack, but it was powered down. There was no way of knowing whether a message had been sent, but they’d be long gone by the time Yuan could send reinforcements, presuming he was going to.
“There’s got to be a good five large worth of heroin and coke here,” Dave noted. “What do you want to do with it?”
“Burn it,” Dan replied without hesitation.
Vernon nodded. “Good call.”
“You don’t think some of ours would use the shit, do you?” Dave asked incredulously. He was a little out there himself, but he seemed genuinely shocked at the thought. Of course, he hadn’t been there at the drunken party the night before they’d set out, either.
“Let’s just remove the temptation all together, shall we?” Dan said diplomatically. Frankly, he was less concerned with use than he was with some of their compatriots trying to smuggle the narcotics back Stateside to sell. Neither was a good idea, but he could definitely see a few of their colleagues getting greedy, which would have far-reaching consequences for all of them.
In the end, they just set fire to all of it; the shack, the tents, the tower, the works. There was only the one boat that had run away from the yacht beached at the beach, and they shot it full of holes until it was awash. If there were any more pirates hiding in the jungle, they’d be marooned. It was a long, long swim to the nearest habitation on Pulau Jemaja.
If you’re interested in some intel on the AO in which MMPR and its PMC personnel are operating, Pete did an Area Brief. You can view that right here.
The cover of Kill Yuan was done by artist Adam Karpinski; his Deviant Art page is online here.
Nealen’s author page is on Facebook right here – yes, he does usually look that dour, as though he’s chewing gravel and gall, but he’s actually a nice guy. The American Praetorians website is right here. You can also read his contributions to Breach-Bang-Clear too, of course. You know, if you wanna.