On October 28, 1988 a limited nuclear war took place between the US and USSR. It lasted thirty-six minutes and changed the world. Two reporters five years later decide to set out across America and write about the current state of the country. The trip takes them to a breakaway Hispanic nation of Aztlan around El Paso. A California untouched by the war and now practically an independent nation. Across a devastated Midwest subject to radioactive dust storms. It all ends at an abandoned Manhattan overrun with feral dog packs and part of the largest salvage operation in history.
This was probably the most realistic book about a nuclear war ever written. It is presented as a travelogue for a fictional event that already occurred. Supplemented with fictional interviews with government officials and common people. Fictional government reports on the war. It has a feel of authenticity. We find out that the war was started because the U.S. was deploying a missile defense system called Spiderweb. The attack took out Washington DC., San Antonio, Brooklyn and missile fields in the upper Midwest. They also detonated nuclear explosions in the upper atmosphere to send out an electro-magnetic pulse(EMP) that wipes out all electrical equipment. Six million die in the initial war and sixty million in the five years from disease and starvation. A triage system is in place that denies treatment for those that have been exposed to high levels of radiation.
The country is portrayed as fragmented with the more well off states in the south and west enacting strict immigration laws. California having the most draconian. Great Britain and Japan are the world powers and are the source of most of the aid that the country receives. The Soviet Union has completely disintegrated and most third world countries collapsed due to the chaos. The authors hinted at a sequel that would take them around the world but it was never written.
The book is obviously dated. It actually dates itself on purpose with the fictional date. Still it is a fascinating look at the world of the 1980’s. The EMP attack was a concept that I first read about in this book. Now it is quite popular in fiction and for good reason. Our society is much more vulnerable with so much now computerized. Other countries are working on this technology and a report stated that such an attack could kill ninety percent of the population.
While dated it is still a powerful story that shows the social and political outlook in the eighties.