Review: White Horizon

White Horizon

TK Blackwood’s 1990s continued Cold War gone conventionally hot series continues in White Horizon, an excellent installment. The Fuldapocalypse not only continues apace but features the powerful but often overlooked country of Sweden as a major setting. Featuring everything that has made the past installments so good, this was a joy to read.

The only real “problem” was teasing a successor. But that’s a good problem to have. This shows that the “cold war gone conventionally hot” subgenre still has quite a bit of life in it.

Review: Infiltrated

I recently finished Infiltrated, the latest (as of this post) entry in the Duncan Hunter series by Mark Hewitt. I was extremely relieved to be done with it, having gone ahead with the final two books out of plain curiosity. It probably was not the wisest decision out there.

By now the main character is an internet Navy SEAL meme done unironically. The set pieces are reduced to the same old superplane gimmick that’s already been repeated many times over. But those are small problems compared to the absolute biggest sign of devolution: The series has become more than ever like William W. Johnstone.

Like Johnstone, the final two books have been taken over more and more by repetitive political rants. They reach a particular low in Infiltrated, not helped by a change in tone. The conspiracies go from “The Hindenburg was destroyed by communists and Amelia Earhart kidnapped by a Soviet submarine and sold into slavery in the Middle East” to boring, annoying, and slightly creepy internet conspiracy theories turned real. It’s like going from “Actually, JFK was killed by a combination of Jackie and the car’s driver” to someone going on tirade after tirade on the “international bankers”.

So yeah, I’m glad to be finished. It was a fun ride for a few books, but overstayed its welcome without a good stopping point.

Review: Small Unit Infantry Ambush Tactics

Small Unit Infantry Ambush Tactics

It’s very rare that I find a book that’s essentially a “strictly worse” version of another one. Where another work exists that can do literally everything it can and do it better. Yet that is the case for Small Unit Infantry Ambush Tactics, a how to fight guide about-look at the title.

By itself it’s not too bad, showing different ambush types and critiquing rote training. But it’s just that Special Reconnaissance and Advanced Small Unit Patrolling has everything it does and so much more. Plus the latter book has a far better tone, giving credit to the establishment where the author thinks it’s due instead of the more overly critical one of this book. So I feel comfortable in saying: Get Wolcoff’s masterpiece instead.

Review: Wet Work

Wet Work

Mark Hewitt’s Hunter series continues its crazy in Wet Work, the fifth installment. It gets harder to review a later book in a long series unless the quality changes massively in either direction. This is not the case here. Like most of its predecessors, it’s a sprawling technothriller with a ridiculous main character who makes John Rourke look like an everyman in comparison.

Thankfully, one thing about this book is different and better. The final action set piece is actually tense and well written. But even that can’t break it out of the pack of “I love reading them, but don’t really recommend them for other people” that the first four established.

Review: World War III 1987

World War III 1987 Blog

Now that the main war has finished, I feel comfortable reviewing the World War III 1987 blog. Now, I must admit that I’m benefiting a lot from the context I’ve learned since I’ve started Fuldapocalypse. Part of it is that there are too few 198X Cold War Hot works of fiction instead of the too many. But another part of it is that web serials (which this ultimately is) and traditional books are apples and oranges. Or, to be more accurate, the relationship between them is like that between baseball and cricket, boxing and mixed martial arts, or rugby and American football. All involve hitting a ball with a bat/pileups of burly players/beating one’s opponent up, but anyone with knowledge of both would admit to big differences and often a lack of overlap.

Likewise, writing a book and writing a serial both involve creative writing, but they also have different priorities and require different skillsets to really excel at. And I can say that as a serial, the WWIII87 blog succeeded very. The first thing a serial needs to do-and I mean needs, is be punctual with updates. While there were understandable human slip ups, the update schedule was nonetheless brisk.

The update schedule was good, and so was the content of said updates. I could quibble with a lot of things, but I don’t really have the heart to go “no, the combat power of that division was (X) instead of (Y)” or nitpick minor technical details or circumstances. There are just too many soft factors and confounds in a hypothetical Fuldapocalypse to really call any one outcome plausible, especially given the unlikeliness of a sustained conventional conflict (Cold War era field manuals from both sides are very clear-a third world war is likely to start off conventionally, but highly unlikely to end that way). Let me just say I’ve read substantially worse and leave it at that.

I do have to take issue with the plotnukes, which do the Hackett style of “trade two cities” (Madrid and Gorky/Nizhny Novgorod), and which serve as a Deus ex Atomo at the end. Though even there there isn’t a real good way to do them. I think the least contrived option, which I really haven’t much of in other fiction is to have them deployed tactically against field formations but not strategically against targets in cities or deep beyond the front (kind of like a local version of Arc Light’s skewed extreme counterforce strikes to make a large exchange survivable). Like faster than light travel in science fiction, you just have to try and stay consistent and run with it. And I’ll admit the nuclear ride, when the story goes there, is a little bumpy to me. There’s also a little too much focus, IMO, on detailed actions in the peripheral theaters, which made the pace on the truly important Centfront somewhat slower than I would have liked.

That being said, this is a good effort and my hat’s off to the writer. My personal journey since starting Fuldapocalypse and reading so many books has broadened my mind, and the serial has progressed throughout this blog’s existence. Congratulations and good work!

Review: Special Reconnaissance and Advanced Small Unit Patrolling

Special Forces (specifically MACV-SOG) veteran Edward Wolcoff has created a masterpiece in Special Reconnaissance and Advanced Small Unit Patrolling. Despite the long and clunky title, the book itself is very accessible. The goal was to create a list of tactics, techniques, and procedures determined by both theory and practice. It was also to present them in a way that was easily accessible and not written in field manualese (indeed, taking issue with official doctrine is stated in the introduction as a big motivation for the entire book). Wolcoff succeeds admirably in both parts.

This is not just for people who actually do light infantry patrols. Even armchair writers like me will find it very useful for both research and curiosity. Few stones are left unturned. This aims to be comprehensive and it succeeds. It does arguably focus a little too much on the past, but given the author’s Vietnam service, this is quite understandable. While “tone” isn’t the most relevant for a book like this, I enjoy how this comes across as being critical of official doctrine and often greatly so, but not in a bitter or axe-grinding way (Wolcoff has said that he submitted this book to a security review and cooperated with the Pentagon in its publication, FWIW).

What I particularly like is how Wolcoff makes it very clear that failure is as big a teacher (if not more) as success. Survivorship bias can skew things massively, so it’s important to look at what didn’t work as well as what did. This is a great resource for well, anyone, and well worth a purchase.

Review: Blown Cover

Blown Cover

The fourth book in Mark Hewitt’s Hunter series, Blown Cover is a book where I did not want the crazy to stop. The crazy was the entire point of the series, and for it to become just another middling thriller would be taking the “Captain Beefheart Playing Normal Music” issue to extremes. Thankfully, the crazy becomes, if anything, even crazier.

There’s Amelia Earhart conspiracies, Hindenburg conspiracies, the same conspiracies in the last three books, and more. And this book even has a -shock- actually well written action set piece. There’s a genuinely effective action scene where the protagonist has to struggle his way to the cockpit in a depressurizing plane that’s truly well written. Yes, there’s hundreds of pages of clunky crazy surrounding it, but still.

So yes, I had genuine fun with this book. It might even be my favorite so far in the series, just because of how excessive it is. I like excessive cheap thrillers.

Review: The Eleven Days of Christmas

The Eleven Days of Christmas

For Christmas, I feel like I should review a Christmas book. A Christmas book that’s also a Fuldapocalyptic history book is Marshall Michel’s The Eleven Days of Christmas, about the final significant bombing campaign in the Vietnam War. Michel, himself an aviator veteran of the war, left no stone unturned to try and get the full story. To try and find the truth about Linebacker II, he went not only to American sources, but as many North Vietnamese ones as he could access, and even esoteric ones like the memoirs of Joan Baez (who was in Hanoi at the time).

The result is a masterpiece that illustrates Strategic Air Command as this clunky newbie that had sat out the war and then blundered into it. And also spun its clumsy, ineffective performance into a great victory. This is perhaps the biggest unintentional weakness of the book: The claim that Linebacker II was mixed at best and ineffective at worst is a lot less controversial now than it was at the time he wrote it.

Still, anyone interested in the Vietnam air war has to get this book. Merry Christmas and happy holidays to all!

Review: No Need to Know

No Need to Know

The third in Hewitt’s Hunter series, No Need to Know is every bit as out-there as the first two (if not more). Once again, I’m in the somewhat unusual position of not recommending them for other people while having a blast reading them myself. The conspiracies don’t stop in this book, and neither do the set-pieces.

In fact, this is actually better paced if anything than the second and especially the first book. While it’s still overly long, it feels like it flows better and doesn’t have that many outright dull moments. Ok, except those involving the details of operation the YO-3 airplane, which is obsessed over throughout the series.)

That sounds like faint praise. And the inherent flaws of the first two are still there. But still it’s nice to see an author’s craft get genuinely better.

A Thousand Words: Electric Football

Electric Football

As Christmas approaches, it’s important to acknowledge a rite of passage every American child has faced. Getting an electric football set and only using it once. I remember getting an electric football set, thinking the players were actually programmable (ha!), watching them shake downfield once after turning the game on, and never touching it again.

The creation of Norman Sas and Tudor Games shortly after WWII, electric football involves a vibrating board to move its players. When the NFL expanded massively in popularity, electric football gained the official license, becoming the Madden of its day. If Madden was programmed in two days by people who couldn’t make the cut at Game Freak or Bethesda.

Now electric football is both technically improved and far less popular because, you know, video games exist. But it was and still is a thing.