It’s been a while. But John Agnew’s Operation Zhukov has brought me back. Back to the time when I started Fuldapocalypse.
So in an alternate 1992 with the USSR still going, the just-reunified Germany clashes with Poland, and it expands into a (conventional) Fuldapocalypse. And yes, there is a reference to the Fulda Gap, although most of the action follows British units farther north.
And this brought a weird feeling to me, a feeling of strange comfort and nostalgia. This is a book of constant clunky jumping around between paper-thin Steel Panthers Characters who exist purely to operate military equipment. This is a book of conference room and makeshift conference room infodumps. This is a book of clashes too grounded and technically “realistic” to be over the top fun but too detailed to be genuinely realistic (what fog of war?).
Because of all that, it’s a callback to the day where I was expecting to review books in a spectrum so narrow that I’d highlight the (in)accuracy of tank unit TO&Es to see how the book differed from the others in the pack. Here, I can say that it has more accurate T-80s in the GSFG arsenal and not the more commonly used but technically inaccurate T-72s. A similar pattern exists throughout the entire book-while there’s undeniably some issues somewhere in the “there’s this many roadwheels on this type of tank” type of description, I didn’t see any big red flags (no pun intended).
I would probably have been frustrated with this book had I read it some time ago. Now, knowing that there are many individual authors who’ve written more books than the entirety of the “Conventional World War III” genre, I feel strangely nostalgic.
This kind of book isn’t crowding out any genre and isn’t setting any bad trends. This specific book isn’t badly made for what it is, not having any truly massive errors or truly gigantic bloat. Yes, I consider it a little flat, but “flat” isn’t the worst thing a book can be. Operation Zhukov can be summed up as the World War III version of Marine Force One, a “51% book” that fits its (in this case, narrow) genre with the most basic competence but doesn’t go above or beyond it.