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A storm in a teacup
The good: a well-written, fast-moving (mostly) look at what would probably have been the most destructive conflict ever. The premise (Soviet Union runs out of oil, attacks NATO) is just plausible enough to sustain the action, and it's not like it's the main focus of the book. There's a good range of charcters at all levels and both sides, making it appear balanced. For the military enthusiasts, there's enough hardware here to satisfy even the most demanding, and it's all put to splendid use. Particular mention goes to the Backfire raids on the US convoys which are interesting (they don't really appear in the genre before this book, and certainly not this excitingly). Iceland is a good idea on the Soviet's part, and plays out interestingly. The Bad: More than the good, for me at any rate. The biggest absence in this book is emotional depth. None of the characters come across as fully 3D figures, and instead are familiar figures from any war drama. The people take back seat to the technology here. The romantic subplot is unnecessary and devoid of any feeling. For a World War that engulfs oceans and continents, the lack of non-US characters is poor - no West German PO Vs? The North German plain and the Fulda gap would have seen the worst of the fighting, yet the characters there are largely ignored. Only a US tanker serves to give some indication of the war at ground level. Alekseyev is off making the decisions at his command post most of the time - how would one of his tankers have felt advancing into NATO missile fire? Never mentioned. Instead, lots of rather dull action at sea forms the bulk of the book. Subs torpedo ships, are hunted down, get sunk in return. It's interesting to begin with, but goes on way too long. Given Clancy's focus on naval action it's understandable, but there's a war in Europe too! Lastly, NATO gets way too much luck. There's no real suspense; we know who the winners are. Overall, an overrated book that is still an good read, if you can overlook the US-centric narrative and focus on naval action, there's a decent book under it all. If you wanted to read better stuff in a similar vein, Sir John Hackett's Third World War is superior (but not very exciting!), as is Red Army by Ralph Peters. Harold Coyle also wrote a good novel about a Soviet invasion of Iran, Sword Point
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