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Literature: Vortex
Vortex is a 1993 novel by Larry Bond and Patrick Larkin. An entry in the Possible War genre, the novel was set in The Apartheid Era in South Africa. In this Alternate History, a successful attack by the African National Congress kills the moderate leaders of South Africa, enabling a reactionary government led by Karl Vorster to take power. Vorster promptly pulls a political 180, returning the country to strict apartheid, suppressing the media, and leading South Africa into a war with its former colony, Namibia, and her Cuban and Angolan backers. As the forces of Apartheid and Communism battle one another for control of the world's strategic minerals, and South Africa slips further and further into chaos, an American intervention may be the only way to salvage anything from the ruins of what was once Africa's most prosperous country.

The novel has Loads and Loads of Characters. Some of the more important ones include:

South Africans
  • Karl Vorster and his henchmen Erik Muller and Marius van der Heijden.
  • Henrik Kruger, Kommandant of the 20th Cape Rifles and the main viewpoint character for the SADF.
  • Captain (later Major) Rolf Bekker, 44th Parachute Regiment.

Cubans
  • General Antonio Vega, Commanding officer of Cuban forces in Angola and the South African theatre. The primary Cuban POV character.
  • Senior Captain Victor Mares, 8th Motor Rifle Battalion. Serves as the POV character for Cuban field operations.

Americans
  • James Malcolm Forrester, Vice-President of the United States of America.
  • Colonel Robert O'Connell of the 1/75th Ranger battalion.
  • Lieutenant-General Jerry Craig, Commander of the Allied South African Joint Task Force.
  • Ian Sherrfield, an American reporter who leaks the truth about Vorster to the world at large.

The novel sold well and recieved good reviews. It was followed by Cauldron, Bond's third novel with Larkin.

Tropes Appearing In This Novel Include:

  • The Alliance: Anti-villainous example. South Africa's aggression against Namibia is opposed by a broad range of Third World East Bloc powers, most prominently Cuba, but also including Angola, Libya, Mozambique, and Zimbabwe, along with the ANC and the Namibians themselves, and with the Soviet Union acting as The Team Benefactor.
  • Alternate History: Would now qualify as this, due to the relatively peaceful collapse of apartheid in Real Life.
  • America Saves the Day: American intervention disables Vorster's nuclear arsenal, forces the South Africans to the table, and prevents the Cubans from winning.
  • Antivillain: Many of the South Africans and all of the Cubans, especially Antonio de Vega, and Victor Mares (the latter of whom is downright heroic).
  • The Apartheid Era: Set near the end of it.
  • Awesome Personnel Carrier: Averted. Both the South African Ratels and the Cuban BTR-60s are hideously vulnerable. From the Namibian perspective however, this trope may well hold true, as it's Cuban BTR-60s from Victor Mares' 8th Motor Rifle Battalion that defend the road to Windhoek against the oncoming SADF.
  • Badass: Rolf Bekker is an enormous badass, despite being an utter psychopath.
    • Colonel Badass: Henrik Kruger and Robert O'Connell
    • Four-Star Badass: Antonio Vega, who defeats the South Africans, and nearly beats the Americans to Pretoria, using only second-line equipment like the T-62 and BTR-60.
  • The Big Bad: Karl Vorster
  • Bigger Stick: How the Americans are able to gain the edge over Vega. His T-62s, BTR-60s, and MiGs are no match for M1 Abrams', M2 Bradleys, or F-18 Hornets and he knows it.
  • Blackmail: Emily and Ian use Erik Muller's homosexuality to blackmail him into giving them information on the Blue Train massacre.
  • Butt Monkey: The ANC. They're used by Vorster and his cronies, easily defeated by the SADF, looked down on by Vega. Many of them eventually try to defect from the socialist forces, and are imprisoned by Vega for their efforts.
  • The Chessmaster: Antonio Vega whose perfectly timed and multipronged invasion of South Africa brings Vorster's government to the brink of collapse.
  • The Cold War: The novel is set near the end of it, as the Soviet Union crumbles from internal pressure, the American defence budget drops for the first time in decades, and Cuba withdraws from Angola.
  • Cool Plane: The Cubans have the MiG-29 "Fulcrum", the Su-25 "Frogfoot" ground-attack craft (think of it as the Russian version of the A-10), and the Mi-24 "Hind" gunship helicopter, which plays a vital role in destroying South Africa's border defences and then purusing them inland. The American have the F-14 "Tomcat" and F/A-18 "Hornet" launched from the decks of their carriers.
  • Dark Messiah: Vorster views himself as a messianic figure, out to save South Africa for God. A number of his followers also see him in this light, ascribing to him the ability to see the future and commune with the Almighty.
  • Deadly Gas: Vega responds to South Africa's nuclear attack on his men by using gas against particularly stubborn pockets of resistance. The effects on local civillian populations are not good.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Vega. To quote the book, "it was said that even Castro felt the edge of the general's icy sarcasm from time to time."
  • Defector from Decadence: Chris Taylor and Henrik Kruger go this route, revolting against the Vorster regime.
  • Depraved Homosexual: Erik Muller, South Africa's director of military intelligence, who enjoys beating up black boys and then having sex with them.
  • Dirty Commies: Bond tries to portray Vega and the rest of the Cubans this way. Unfortunately, he's far too reliant on their simply being Communists to make them seem evil, and the end result is a group of antivillains who rarely Kick the Dog.
  • The Dragon: Rolf Bekker to Muller and later Vorster.
  • Dropped a Bridge on Him: After being defeated and preparing to head home to Cuba, Vega is randomly killed in an ambush by black guerillas still pissed off about his use of gas. Its a pretty lame way for a guy that cool to go down; it's as though the author suddenly remembered, "oh yeah, he's evil, I better kill him."
  • Even Evil Has Standards: Vega is a ruthless commander with only a limited regard for civillian casualties (and a Communist, which in Bond's mind makes him absolute scum). The South African regime absolutely disgusts him, however, and he finds their racism not only vile, but baffling. He honestly can't understand where they're coming from.
    "Racism. What nonesense. Why he had black Cuban officers on his own staff, good men every one of them."
  • Eviler Than Thou: How the Americans view the South Africa/Cuba part of the war.
  • A Father to His Men: Vega, whose pride in his soldiers and concern for their safety is a notable part of his characterisation.
  • Fragile Speedster: Most of South Africa's armoured cars, and Cuba's BTR-60s APCs.
  • The Fundamentalist: Vorster is a fundamentalist member of the Dutch Reformed Church, and opposes any attempts at integrating the Church.
  • General Failure: Adriaan de Wet of the South African army and Colonel Sese Luthuli of the ANC.
  • Glass Cannon: The Rooikat and Eland armoured cars that form the core of South Africa's strike force are heavily armed but very lightly armoured.
  • Graceful Loser: Vega. When his last chance of beating the Americans to Pretoria dies, he just turns his columns around and quietly heads home for Cuba.
  • Grew a Spine: Adriaan de Wet, bootlicker and General Failure finds his courage during the last few chapters and tries to convince Vorster not to go through with his plans to destroy South Africa's economy.
  • Hair-Trigger Temper: Calling Vorster "volatile" is putting it mildly.
  • Heel-Face Turn: Henrik Kruger and the 20th Cape Rifles, and most of Cape Town (led by Major Chris Taylor) revolt against Vorster and his thugs.
  • Heroic Self-Deprecation: Victor Mares is very deprecating about his ability to stop the South Africans, and is always convinced that his battalion is inches away from being slaughtered. In reality, he singlehandedly holds up the South African advance, saving Namibia in the process.
  • Hot-Blooded: Kruger's cavalry commander, Major Daan Visser, who gets his command massacred when he outpaces the rest of the battalion to charge after Victor Mares' men.
  • It's Raining Men: Both the Rangers and Rolf Bekker's men are elite parachute troops.
  • Karmic Death: Erik Muller, Vorster's head of military intelligence, is responsible for covert operations and torture. He himself is tortured to death once Vorster finds out he is gay.
  • Kick the Dog: Vega's use of gas is meant to remind us that the Cubans are not the good guys. In context it doesn't necessarily come off that way.
  • Last Stand: Subverted. Victor Mares and the 8th Motor Rifle Battalion believe they're setting up for one, when The Cavalry, in the form of a column of GAZ-69 jeeps, BTR-60s, and truck-towed antitank guns arrive.
  • Mad Scientist's Beautiful Daughter: Ian Sherffield's girlfriend, Emily van der Heijden is the daughter of Marius van der Heijden, one of Vorster's top henchmen.
  • Majorly Awesome: Major Chris Taylor, who leads Cape Town's revolt against the Vorster regime and Major Rolf Bekker, Vorster's personal bagman. Senior Captain Victor Mares, one of Cuba's best soldiers is promoted to Major around the time of the invasion of South Africa. Averted by Major Daan Visser, a hotblooded moron who gets his command massacred, and Major Willem Metje, an intelligence officer who ignores evidence of the Cuban military buildup in Mozambique and Zimbabwe until it is too late.
  • Maligned Mixed Marriage: Vorster claims that intermarriage between whites and blacks "can only result in a reversal of the evolutionary process."
  • Mle Trois: Between South Africa, the United States, and socialist forces, led by Cuba.
  • Mighty Glacier: Thanks to the limited availability of antitank weapons in the region, Vega's T-54/55s and T-62s become this when facing off against the South Africans.
  • A Nazi by Any Other Name: The South African AWB, of which Vorster is a member. Their symbol is a three-armed swastika even. Vorster himself becomes increasingly Hitler-esque as the novel progresses.
  • Nuke 'em: The South Africans nuke Cuba's Third Brigade Tactical Group when they realise conventional forces will not be enough. The American invasion is concerned chiefly with shutting down the South African nuclear weapons. Later, Vortster threatens to contaminate South Africa's mines with radioactive dust.
  • Oh, Crap: The reaction of most South African officers when they realise that the Cubans have joined the war in Namibia, and again when they cross the border into South Africa.
  • Only Sane Man: Helmoed Malherbe, the South African minister of industry who tries to stop Vorster's military adventures. After he is fired, there's no one in the cabinet who even tries to keep a check on Vorster, though in the last chapters, Adriaan de Wet tries.
  • Police Brutality: A fact of life in South Africa, made worse by the Vorster regime.
  • Politically Incorrect Hero: Even Kruger and other heroic South Africans demonstrate some less than enlightened attitudes when it comes to dealing with the country's black population.
  • Politically Incorrect Villain: Vorster, and the rest of the villainous South Africans. The word kaffir gets thrown around a lot, as does Uitlander when referring to foreigners and South Africans of English descent. Vorster's essentially racist against anyone who isn't Afrikaner.
  • The Political Officer: Most South African units are assigned an AWB officer who monitors them for signs of defeatism. Kruger looses his right-hand man when one of them overhears him criticising Vorster.
  • President Evil: Karl Vorster, who allowed his predecessor to be assassinated, turns South Africa into a fascist police state, and eventually tries to destroy his own nation in a suicidal fit. That's on top of being a racist SOB out to undo any positive steps that the Haymans government had taken towards integrating the country.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: Vice-President Forrester for the Americans, and General Vega for the Cubans. The South Africans lack these, which is part of their problem.
  • Reds with Rockets: Almost all of the equipment used by the Cubans, Angolans, and Libyans is of Soviet manufacture. Most of it is also second line stuff—T-54/55 and T-62 tanks, BTR-60 armoured personnel carriers, AK-47 rifles, and MiG-23 fighters, though some more modern machinery (for the time period) does put in an appearance, most notably the Mi-24 Hind, the MiG-29 fighter, and the T-72 MBT.
  • Refuge in Audacity: Vega's plan to take advantage of South Africa's weakness at home and invade them from bases in Zimbabwe, Botswana, and Mozambique. It works too, leading to the virtual collapse of the South African economy and the crippling of their war effort.
  • The Revolution Will Not Be Civilized: The novel's portrayal of the ANC.
  • Sanity Slippage: Vorster's mental state deteriorates considerably as the book progresses. By the end he's ready to trigger national Armageddon, just so that he can spit in the faces of the Americans and the Cubans.
  • Secret Police: What the AWB becomes under Vorster.
  • Sociopathic Soldier: Rolf Bekker is a Psycho for Hire who joined the army because he enjoys killing blacks. Most of the AWB men come off this way once they get their hands on any real power.
  • South Africans with Surface-to-Air Missiles: More POV characters in the book are members of the SADF than any other faction. Since they're fighting on numerous fronts at once, this makes sense, and the reader gets a more or less complete look at South Africa's weapons, from Rooikat and Eland armoured cars to their secretive nuclear arsenal.
  • The Strategist: Vega, who's probably the smartest character in the book when it comes to conventional warfare. He's only defeated by the Americans because he lacks their superior firepower.
  • Suicide by Cop: Marius van der Heijden, one of Vorster's henchmen, and the head of the South African police. He tries to force Kruger—a friend who he had once hoped would become his son-in-law—to kill him, and when that fails, is shot by an American corporal while trying to shoot Kruger.
  • Tank Goodness: This being a war story, they appear, and play a pivotal role in Cuba's stalling of the South African offensive. Since the SADF has few tanks (with most of their striking power being concentrated in the heavily-armed/lightly-armoured Rooikat and Eland armoured cars) and little in the way of antitank capability, Soviet-made, Cuban & Angolan-driven T-54/55s and T-62s are able to take a serious bite out of South Africa's forces, requiring massive amounts of firepower from the SADF to stop.
  • Villainous BSOD: Vorster has one after his defeat. He recovers in time for his trial, then slips back into again once the verdict is handed down.
  • Villainous Valour: Many of the South African and Cuban soldiers display tremendous valour. Senior Captain Victor Mares and the 8th Motor Rifle Battalion provide a classic example, holding the road to Windhoek against all odds, despite the steady destruction of their unit.
  • We Have Reserves: Vorster tries to use this tactic, wrecking his military in the process. Vega does not and does everything in his power to conserve Cuban lives, though he's less concerned about civilian casualties.
  • Well-Intentioned Extremist: While the Russians are portrayed as greedy, conniving, fair-weather Communists, Bond's Cubans don't get much worse than this. All of them are genuine believers in Communism, who really think that they are going to make life better for South Africa's black population.
  • You Have Failed Me: Vorster institutes these policies, arresting or executing officers and ministers who don't succeed in their tasks.


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