The Fuldapocalypse Year in Review

This has been a great year for Fuldapocalypse. Not only have I completed many reviews, and many diverse reviews, but the blog finally broke free of the shackles I’d initially imposed on it. After tinkering with the narrow scale a bit, I just tossed it aside entirely in March without any regret. Of course, my reviews became a lot more off the cuff and looser without that structure, but I’m not sure that’s a bad thing.

It’s definitely not a bad thing that Fuldapocalypse has become a general fiction review blog with an “analytics of World War III” side-section. As I’ve said before, I would have literally run out of books had I kept trying to do that.

While I did not read a 27-book series in one binge, I did read all eleven Blaine McCracken books and all seven Black Eagle Force books.

What were my favorite literary discoveries of 2019? It’s a little hard to figure out given how much I read, but here they are.

-Northern Fury: H-Hour.

I knew very much of the Command scenarios this book started from, but was impressed by the novel itself. It managed to not fall into the pit of being just a thinly-veiled lets play, and flowed well. This is how to use wargames well for writing.

-Blaine McCracken.

If the Survivalist was last year’s “binge read a long series”, McCracken was this years, with me devouring all eleven books in short order. Jon Land tosses aside such frivolities as “plausibility” and “logic” in favor of ridiculous set-pieces. And I loved them.

-The Draka series.

This has been an infamous series in internet alternate history for a long time. Reading the actual books was something weirdly relieving, cutting through the decades-long telephone game to find. I had the suspicion that they were less than their reputation beforehand, but reading them confirmed it.

I’m left with the conclusion that, weirdly like the Spacebattles-favorite Worm, the Draka series became internet-famous for having a legitimately distinct setup and a variety of timing/circumstance-related things that had little to do with the prose itself. It’s mostly just “the bad guys win” and “bizarro-America, a continent-sized superpower founded on tyranny” used as the (interesting) setup for middling sleazy pulp in a variety of genres.

-The Casca series.

Ah yes, it’s one of those series where the background of “Guy who sang The Ballad Of The Green Beret makes a cheap thriller series about an immortal Roman soldier” is more interesting than the bulk of the books themselves. The first two books will never be more than trashy cheap thrillers, but they’re still good trashy cheap thrillers.

Everything beyond that is incredibly formulaic and risk-averse, even by cheap thriller standards. The immortality gimmick is just a way to get the same dull character into whatever pop-history period the book demands.

-Marine Force One.

David Alexander’s Marine Force One is perhaps the single most middling piece of fiction I’ve read. It’s so mediocre, so “51%”, that it actually stands out somehow. Thus it makes a good benchmark for other “51% books”, especially action thrillers, that I’ve weirdly come back to time and again.

It’s been a great year for this blog and for me in terms of reading. See you in 2020!

Review: Strike Vector

Strike Vector

strikevectorcover

Strike Vector is the the second book in the Marine Force One series. Whereas the first book was a 51% book, this feels a little worse.

The plot deals with Marine Force One going on a mission to stop smuggled superweapon MacGuffins from reaching Saddam Hussein (this book was published in 2002). The opening part has a lot of badly written sexual sleaze to it (guess how much that adds to the novel), and the main action portion, as Maj. Saxon and his team fight their way through the Middle East, has such wonders as an AC-130 engaging MiG-29s in aerial combat and managing to destroy one of them before being shot down.

As for the main event, it has three problems. The first is the devolution of its main character. In the first book, Saxon was an ass. Here he’s an undeveloped trigger-puller who’s just there to fight and be present for the battles.

The second is that the battles themselves never really rise that high. The writing on them is still very much at the “51% level”, and the main characters are a little too capable for the tone. The character of Maj. Saxon may be toned down, but the fighting capability of Maj. Saxon is still very, very great. The third is that there are a few too many gimmicks in the action scenes, a few too many fights for the sake of fights.

The result is a slightly worse-than-normal entry in a middling series.

Review: Marine Force One

Marine Force One

The book Marine Force One is an example of a “51% book” that is elevated by the context in which it stands.

The book tells the story of an elite commando force tasked with hunting SAMs in the Balkans, in a conflict that feels like a jumbled mix of historical recollections of Operation Allied Force (evasive SAMs! Stealth fighters lost!) and think-tank reports (Resurgent Red Russians!) all tossed together. The Cobra Force of our heroes has to hunt the SAMs while butting heads with a Spetsnaz force assisting their Slavic ally.

If there’s one thing distinctive besides being dated, it’s that the main character, Maj. David Saxon, is an ass. He’s a one-dimensional figure who gave up his material possessions and marriage to focus on being in the military (and doesn’t miss his ex or even his son at all), he punches someone for being annoying to him during a debriefing, and when (however briefly) off-duty, he just uses prostitutes as the sole “relationship”. Yet rather than have his seriously flawed character be taken advantage of, Saxon is otherwise treated as a Mary Sue who can do what the rest of the military can’t. Very few other characters, even the villains, enjoy such detail.

Other than that, everything is just good enough. The action is just good enough but not the best. The pacing is at least fast, if not the best. The exposition can be annoying but isn’t too annoying, and so on. So why did I feel better about this book than I ‘ought to’ have? Well , the first part is that sometimes a 51% book is what one needs.

The second part is that given the publication date of 2001, the beginning of a very, very dark decade for technothrillers, the “competition” is less serious. In a context full of overpriced, under-proofread self-published books, legacy series continuing on pure inertia, and the few remaining editor-proof super-authors, a nice light 51% book isn’t bad at all.