Literature / 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.
- 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.
- 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:
- 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. The Cubans and the Americans meanwhile have this reaction when Vorster shows the world he's willing to use nuclear weapons on his own soil.
- 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.
- When Vorster's involvement and complicity in the Blue Train massacre is made public, he gives a televised speech that more or less boils down to "so what if I let terrorists kill my political opponents for personal gain?!" It does not work out the way he wants, however.
- 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 B.S.O.D.: 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.
- What the Hell, Hero?: At least, hero from the point of the ANC. The final straw in their already strained relationship with the Cubans is their use of nerve gas against entrenched South Africans defending a city. The attack not only kills the defenders, but inflicts heavy black civilian casualties as well, which prompts an attempted Screw This, I'm Out of Here! among the ANC.
- You Have Failed Me: Vorster institutes these policies, arresting or executing officers and ministers who don't succeed in their tasks. Castro also has a reputation for this among the Cubans, with even Vega cautious about pissing him off.