So I actually haven’t done a formal review of Ralph Peters’ masterpiece Red Army on this blog yet. I think I should, because well, it’s my clear choice for “best conventional World War III book of all time.” It has fewer competitors for that title than I originally thought when I first read it, but still manages to stay above them.
The story of a conventional WW3 in 198X, the book jumps between the perspectives of various Soviets as they carry out the war. One of the best “big war thrillers” at managing the viewpoint jumps, it never feels awkward or clunky in that regard. The characterization is very good, especially by the standards of the genre. And it works very well at avoiding an excessive focus on technology.
Of course, Peters has the Soviets win, and thus deserves extra credit for going against the tide. At the time the book was published, there was a (justifiable) sense of increasing triumphalism. Having them win and win handily was a good move. Especially since it doesn’t come across as being done for cheap shock value.
There’s a few sour parts. While the viewpoint jumping is good, the two messages of “humanize the Soviets” and “show how they can beat NATO” sometimes don’t work well, especially as the latter means characters done just to explain things (granted, as someone who’s read the translated Voroshilov Lectures and similar materials for fun, I understand it in ways a casual reader at the time almost certainly wouldn’t). There’s criticism of how the Soviets advance too fast, which is valid but which I consider a mild issue, no worse than Team Yankee’s similar problem with lopsidedness. My biggest complaint is how the situation is set up to let the Americans almost entirely off the hook for NATO’s defeat.
But these are small problems at most. Red Army is an excellent book, and I have no problem considering it my favorite “Conventional WW3” novel of all time. And it has one of my favorite book covers ever.
5 thoughts on “Review: Red Army”
I’m a big fan of Red Army. I loved it when I first read it in the 1980s, and re-read it fairly recently. Unlike some books I read then, it’s still as good as I remember.
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I agree with Russell. Red Army ages like a fine wine.
I was clearing out the loft last week and found this amongst a bunch of books that the rest of the house doesn’t;t have shelf-room for. Popped it on the pile to re-read, alongside the Flashman set though admittedly the latter’s not one for a Cold War setting 😉
I picked it up for Kindle and read it in one night. Enjoyed it immensely. My only issue is that the context was a little too confined and the reader never had a detailed look at the big picture.
Really enjoyed this book (along with Red Thrust by Steven Zaloga), although I agree with Mike, a little more context would have been a few extra pages well spent …. a worthy counterpoint to Hackett