EDITOR: | December 1st, 2015 | 12 Comments

Whoever thought Rare Earths could be sexy and fun?

| December 01, 2015 | 12 Comments

rare-mettle-cover1I did!

But then I’m a big fan of international suspense novels as a way to learn about complex issues.

Inspired by China’s 2010 embargo of rare earth, I decided to write Rare Mettle to explore the broad set of questions surrounding this usually obscure industry, especially the impact on Silicon Valley’s businesses. For fun, I added a sexy undercover agent and high-tech innovators to the fast-paced thriller, and developed plausible scenarios and provocative outcomes, perfect for the upcoming election year.

My research began after speaking with a journalist who covered the 2010 real-world event, moved into a crash course in geology, and then (groan!) a refresher course in the Periodic Table of Elements (chemistry was NOT my strong suit in school).

Talking to local high-tech investors, I discovered an almost cavalier attitude to the issue, as if pre-negotiated trade agreements would magically protect the world’s supply chain, even in the face of political disputes.

Digging further into Congressional testimony and investor newsletters, I found repeated documentation of China’s stated goal to dominate this commodity, in the same way the Middle Eastern countries dominated last century’s energy industry.

Rattled, then concerned, I asked myself–what’s a high-tech-business-woman-turned-novelist to do?

Answer–depict the worst-case scenario to capture the hearts and minds of the world, much the same way Michael Crichton did with Jurassic Park to highlight the ethics and dangers of careless disregard for genetics research.

Hopefully, I manage to communicate rare earth’s relevance in easy-to-understand language, so that anyone can grasp the implications of today’s geopolitical economics and the supply chain for our next generation of technology, energy, and military weaponry.

As China pursues technology transfers and global leadership unabated, we would be foolish to trust blindly the pat responses from Washington D.C. politicians, military bureaucrats, and established industry channels. After all, they’ve known about this issue for decades and have kept it quiet.

I had to ask–why? Hopefully, you will, too.


The TV was already pre-set to CNN, which kept its relevance by leaking upcoming stories to the right people in D.C., including the exact time they would first air. Apparently, Hank achieved a coveted spot on its distribution list. Hurrah for ass kissing.

“New threats from China put the State Department on high alert this morning,” reported the bland, brunette anchor. “China pledged to block all future shipments of rare earth elements to the United States if we sell our newest military technology to Taiwan.”

Paul jerked forward. His brain raced from the familiar kick of adrenalin.

“These refined metals are used in the manufacture of laser-guided missiles and our newest weapons,” the reporter continued, “among other high-technology products contributing to the booming sales of mobile devices. China’s Northern Province of Inner Mongolia mines and processes over 93% of the earth’s supply of these minerals. We’ll keep you posted as the story develops.”

Hank flicked off the TV. “Our leaders learned about the possible embargo two hours ago, and are discussing an appropriate response,” he stated in official monotone, but the telltale twitch of his nostrils clued Paul into how seriously Hank took this threat. “We need to touch base with all our field personnel for insights into potential solutions or risks.”

That explained Hank’s focus on Kay. Her last email disclosed advanced military technology using those obscure minerals, hiding under a cloak of tiny Chinese game companies. Kay’s cover as an interpreter for an American venture capitalist in Beijing worked wonders getting her behind closed doors.

Her most recent missive was surprisingly cryptic. But in the last two weeks…nothing. Had whatever she stumbled onto provoked this diplomatic muscle-flex from the Chinese Communist Party? And put her in greater danger, too?


Ms. Bridges is a native of Chicago who fell in love with Silicon Valley while earning her B.S. degree from Stanford University. Settling in San ... <Read more about Ann Bridges>

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  • Tracy Weslosky

    Is anyone going to touch this? Ok, I will…

    Perhaps if Ann Bridges was marketing rare earths to Wall St. and Bay St. the stock would be moving north. So Ann, we at InvestorIntel are happy to start branding the technology metals this way and look forward to reading your new novel “Rare Mettle”.

    I have an interview with Jack this afternoon and I will start with: “Do you agree with Ann Bridges that Rare Earths are sexy and fun — and if so, explain….”

    Looking forward to the emails we are going to get on this. Thank you for writing this column Ann and supporting what WE KNOW is an exciting and arguably thrilling behind the scenes industry — thank you!

    December 1, 2015 - 12:52 PM

  • Sue Glover

    Ann, this is absolutely exciting! Who doesn’t find this type of politics and intrigue sexy? Can’t wait to read Rare Mettle. Thank you for this!

    December 1, 2015 - 2:09 PM

  • Janet

    I have just started educating myself on rare earths so this could not be better timing! I will definitely put this on my list of must reads over the holidays …… I love a good spy novel and love the idea of learning more about rare earths and it’s politics while enjoying one.

    December 1, 2015 - 2:12 PM

  • Ann Bridges

    You’re quite welcome, but you deserve a big thanks for your unflagging support and attention over the years.

    December 1, 2015 - 3:37 PM

  • Ann Bridges

    Janet, sorry to disappoint, but the book won’t be released until May 19, 2016. If you’re looking for holiday read, try its prequel, Private Offerings, where I introduce some of the characters in a different type of thriller–high finance and a Silicon Valley IPO.

    December 1, 2015 - 3:39 PM

  • Alex King

    If you want rare-metal-based espionage-thriller fiction, consider the following titles, all seemingly inspired by the “rare earth crisis.” It’s a whole new literary genre…. and the science is mostly dubious! But I will still look forward to reading Rare Mettle.

    Death on the Silk Road, by Russell Miller, illustrated by Robert Banis (Beach House Books, 2011)
    The Bourne Dominion by Eric Van Lustbader, Grand Central Publishing (July 19, 2011)
    Rare Earth by Paul Mason, OR Books, 2011, ISBN 1842438468.
    Rare Earth by Davis Bunn, Bethany House, 2012, ISBN 076420906X.
    Poseidon’s Arrow by Clive Cussler, with Dirk Cussler.
    The Eighteenth Element by David W. Cowles, Hadley V. Baxendale & Co.
    Rare Earth by Harry Marku (Mohyla, 2012).
    Dead End at Port Royal, by P.D. Saracin, Amazon Digital Services (July, 2012)
    Rare Earths (The Armageddon Conspiracy) by Burt Webb (Cybercon. March, 2013)
    Blood Profit$ by J. Victor Tomaszek and James N. Patrick (Roundfire Books, John Hunt Publishing. April, 2014)
    Tucker’s Discovery by Jed O’Dea, PELL Resources; 2 edition (April 12, 2014)
    From TIMNA to MARS: Searching for Rare Earth Metals by Avraham Y. Anouchi, CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform (June 19, 2014)
    Tom Clancy’s Full Force and Effect (A Jack Ryan Novel, Book 10) by Mark Greane, Michael Joseph Ltd. (December 4, 2014)
    The Accidental Courier by Harley Sachs, IDEVCO Intellectual Properties (December 23, 2014) ISBN: 1939381045
    Rare Earth by Michael Asher, Endeavour Press (January 21, 2015)
    Rare Earth by Clive Barnett Hewitt, PublishNation (April 12, 2015)

    December 1, 2015 - 10:47 PM

  • Ann Bridges

    Thanks, Alex. In case you didn’t notice, the list of authors of previous thrillers are men, and I bring a woman’s perspective to the issue. How else to broaden the awareness of the whole population? Besides which, adding the sexy female protagonist is what makes it a fun read! Never one to shy away from breaking yet another glass ceiling, this time I’m tackling the publishing industry’s assumption that men will only read international suspense thrillers written by men. Fortunately, some of my biggest fans are men, so I’m not worried. Enjoy the read!

    December 2, 2015 - 9:52 AM

  • Stock Shaman

    Here in Vancouver, Canada in the Junior Miner Market we responded to the shortage by making Rare Earth discoveries. Shares of companies that drilled for and developed REE properties soared. The end result was basically nothing even after the Canadian Gov. stated they would take back at least 30% of China’s share of the world REE market.IMTRF and GEM- tsxv are still moving forward on their REE properties in Ontario.

    December 2, 2015 - 1:49 PM

  • Janet

    Thanks for your response Ann and thanks for setting Alex straight. I look forward to the May release and will be the first in line to order a copy from my local bookstore.

    December 3, 2015 - 1:52 PM

  • Ann Bridges

    Thanks for your support, Janet! Actually, I hadn’t realized there were SO many novels on the topic already, so I’m glad Alex provided the list. Good thing–I might have gotten discouraged! Instead, I asked Tracy for help, and here we are.

    December 3, 2015 - 2:11 PM

  • Positroll

    Try John Ringo’s Troy Rising series. Its all about space mining + fighting aliens, and REEs are at the core (literally) of all FTL-drives … (the story is a little too libertarian for my liking, but quite funny)

    December 4, 2015 - 12:04 PM

  • Ann Bridges

    Aliens and space mining, huh? I confess I tried to stay more true-to-life and within the scope of possible situations and outcomes, especially as the issue continues to be an under-reported story due to its complexities. As a layman myself when it comes to rare earths, I kept the geological/chemical/technological terms to a minimum, and focused instead on a story that raises the What if? But perhaps for a sequel, I can cast an Elon Musk (or Jeff Bezos) character complete with rockets and outer space mining. A passing asteroid anyone?

    December 4, 2015 - 12:25 PM

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