Reading Powersat and then (the suggested chronological order given for [series:The Grand Tour|51185]) is a bit strange, given the former was first published in 2005 and the latter back in 1985.
In Powersat, the ‘big bads’ are informed by the political tensions of the early 2000s, with terrorism (especially Middle Eastern) driving the conflict. When Privateers was written, the Soviet Union had not yet fallen and the Cold War was still going, so it’s unsurprising to find that the ‘what if’ this time around sees the Soviets taking a position of political power and the United States fading to isolationism.
From the perspective of someone who grew up with basically no memories of the Cold War, it feels almost like alternative history, which is fascinating in its own right, even if it wasn’t intended. I really do recommend reading this book with that thought in mind: this isn’t our world, it’s a close cousin that diverged sometime in the late 80s. It does make the timeline a bit weird and inconsistent when combined with Powersat, but so it goes.
Characterwise, Dan Randolph is only slightly better than in Powersat and that’s only because everyone else by comparison is worse, fitting more into a more 1980s mindset. He’s still selfish, immoral, and does his best to sleep with ever (hot) woman he sees. There’s even a comment that his secretaries only last as long The Russians are overly Russian and the Japanese characters hiss (for some reason, is that a thing). Dan and Jane’s relationship is even weirder for what we saw in Powersat.
Overall… it’s fine? I don’t really recommend it other than as an exploration of a ‘what if’ science fiction where the Soviets won the Cold War and as a sort of completionism for the Grand Tour series. I remember really liking some of the later books in the series years ago (I read them out of order and I’m not sure I ever got to Privateers), so I look forward to getting to those?