There are plenty of technothrillers and science fiction novels now about drones.
They weren’t very common when Dean Ing wrote this novel.
Sentient weapons have a history in science fiction going back to at least 1942 with Murray Leinster’s “The Wabbler”.
Raw Feed (1994): Butcher Bird, Dean Ing, 1993.
This is the third in a series of related technothrillers from Ing, and it was a good, quick read though I liked it the least of any book in the series.
I liked the technology (though not detailed enough for me) of the Butcher Bird, a small, robotic, stealth craft designed for assassination via a nuclear powered x-ray laser.
Its designer and rogue user is Roland Clement who is a renegade aviation/weapons designer for Syria. He takes the Butcher Bird to South America, ostensibly to field test it by killing a French aviation designer who may be able to figure out the technology behind a spate of Mideast murders. Clement, though, has other plans. He manages to slip away from his Syrian masters with his Syrian assistant Selim Mansour and girlfriend Odile in tow. (He lies to Mansour to get his cooperation.) He embarks on a program of both assassination for hire (including the drug cartel of Ing’s The Nemesis Mission) and anyone who has ever laughed at him or can figure out his design. (He’s a borderline psychopath. )
In the latter group is a hero from the other two books – aviation engineer Ulmer. His company is hired by the NSA to evaluate technology behind the Mideast assassination. The Science Fiction Encyclopedia mentions the humane aspect of Ing’s work. I was reminded of that comment when Colleen Morrison and Wes Hardin – both heroes of The Nemesis Mission but minor characters here – almost quit their research project when they suspect they’re designing a craft for sole use in assassinations. Raoul Medina and Kyle Corbin from The Ransom of Black Stealth One (some of the best parts of the book involve Petra Leigh’s deceptions being discovered and a meeting between Ullmer and the presumed dead Corbin) try to stop a federal witness from getting killed. But plans go wrong and soon Ullmer is a target at the Oshkosh, Wisconsin airshow (a good touch that).
I liked the final scene with the Butcher Bird, narrated from the machine’s near sentient viewpoint (it has a complex program for target acquisition and stalking). I thought it was another good installment in a good series. I didn’t even mind the contrived cure of Corbin’s brain cancer via the radiation from Butcher Bird’s breached reactor. However, I did think it was a bit much for Medina to take up with Odile at novel’s end given that she helped hold him prisoner most of the book and is a fugitive.