Review: Israel’s Next War

Israel’s Next War

Martin Archer’s Israel’s Next War was… strange. I’ve read my share of “boom boom goes the tank” war “thrillers” where there are what feels like five million characters (very few of whom are interesting) and five billion weapon descriptions (very few of which are relevant). Thus I was bracing for the book to be like that, and I was not wrong. But it goes a lot deeper than those surface issues.

First, there’s the action itself between Israel and an alliance of its traditional enemies, where I went “No. No. This isn’t how it would go” on many occasions. I guess I just can’t help myself, being the avid wargamer and historian that I’ve been. Something unrealistic, flawed, or not the most well researched isn’t a deal-breaker (far from it). But given the quality of the rest of the book, it went from eyebrow-raising to  head-shaking. Some of it is good, if a little rote. But more of it isn’t, and it all feels like Archer’s sources were:

  • A half-remembered History Channel piece on the Yom Kippur War.
  • Various “Modern Military Equipment” coffee table books.
  • Command And Conquer Generals.

The technology is all over the place, and the equipment is neither consistent nor particularly accurate. Combined with a dull non-war plot, this would feel like a ramshackle technothriller, if not for the final icing on the cake. That would be the writing style.

Archer writes the book in first person, constantly shuffling back and forth between first-person viewpoints with a label preceding their section. The nadir of this is a character named only “The Iraqi Lieutenant Colonel”, but the others aren’t much better. The prose alternates between the “BBGTT” classic of “Infodumps-R-Us” and something that’s surprisingly (and jarringly) “bouncy”, for lack of a better word. It clashes, to put it mildly.

For all those flaws, it’s not the absolute worst, either in plausibility or or in drama. But the “quirks” noted above push Israel’s Next War from being potentially bad and dull to bad and slightly weird. At least I had fun making this review.

Review: The Red Collusion

The Red Collusion

redcollusioncover

David Yaron’s The Red Collusion is a tale of rogue Soviets in 1981 attempting to start World War III, leading to a climax where they attempt to attack an American ballistic missile submarine.

This book is mostly pedestrian but has managed to surprise me in one regard-the sheer number of conference room scenes. The ratio of “people talking” scenes to “people actually doing something” scenes is very, very, high.

It’s realistic to have people talking and arguing about a big plan before they (attempt to) carry it out, but it’s also realistic to have cars stopped at red lights. Imagine a travel book where the author described every single red light, stop sign, and gas station the car stopped at, as well as every single argument the occupants of the car had about where to stop for gas or food. And then in the final action, there’s a time limit-so they urgently, reluctantly, and desperately stop at those traffic lights.

This is the technothriller version of that. Much of the book, apart from a few decently-written if generic spy fiction scenes, consists of the conspirators talking. It amounts to chapter after chapter of…

“Let’s do this.”

(cue long explanation of and preparations for what they want to do.)

“Actually, it would be better if we did this.”

(cue long explanation/plot thread)

“No, we should really do this.

(you get the idea).

Once they finally get going, the rushed “action” isn’t the worst, but isn’t exactly good either. This leaves the book as a strangely amusing novelty. The Red Collusion is saved from  simple mediocrity by taking a genre trope to ridiculous excess. I’ll leave it up to the readers to decide if it’s a good or bad thing.