In the near future things aren’t going well. An OPEC embargo is hurting the economy. The US has a 15% unemployment rate with a 30% projected by the next presidential elections. The president is himself a weak and ineffective leader. He has cancer which he’s covering up and also has a drinking problem. The military has went through extreme cutbacks and can barely subdue an insurgency in Puerto Rico.
The Soviets decide to take advantage of this. A war between Vietnam and China is the opportunity to strike. The Soviets invade China with the intention of annexing Manchuria. They also attack Western Europe. Things quickly get out of control with the Soviets resorting to tactical nukes and nerve gas to subdue the Chinese. An attack on a secret germ warfare facility releases a plague that devastates the survivors of the war. The final part of the book deals with Jack Dawson and his battle to lead the survivors against a rampaging street gang called the Demons that are looting and countryside.
I saw an advertisement in one of the books I was reading for this book. It was a post-apocalyptic book that I somehow missed back in the day and decided to check it out. Wow was this book a train wreck. Where to begin. The book is divided into many little chapters and subchapters numbered wrong that jump the story all over the place. Even in the subchapters the author quickly jumps his point of view. I remember a chapter about a fighter pilot flying to Europe. He is guided by a phony radio transmission into the North Sea. Suddenly we are on a Soviet destroyer that is having a mutiny by its Ukrainian crew. What the hell just happened?
Also the dialogue is just atrocious, stilted and unbelievable. One part has the conversation between the Soviet premier and the President. The premier demands complete surrender and states he didn’t care it the Soviet Union lost 90% of its population as long as the surviving 10% are dedicated Communists. Just really hokey.
Still like any train wreck you can’t help but watch in fascination. The endless stories of death and destruction are kind of interesting. Chinese cities are being wiped out with nerve gas attacks. One instance had the Chinese decide to detonate their nuclear stockpiles rather the have them be captured. A twenty thousand megaton explosion results. It melts the snows on Everest, causes Mt. Etna in Italy to erupt and tidal waves in the Great Lakes that kill thousands. There is an epic sense of destruction. The final part of the book that deals with the battle with the Demons is where the poor writing really takes its toll. The story just drags with repetitive battles that are neither realistic or exciting.
I don’t regret getting this book. It kept my interest about 80% of the book. I know I would have jumped on getting this as a kid if I seen it in the bookrack at the local grocery store. Anyway I kind of take comfort in this book. Thirty years ago someone was living in a world that looked like it was going down the drain. The world now does seem to be heading for a complete breakdown. Maybe thirty years in the future someone will be reading books written now about how bad things are going to be.