Review: War Breaks Out

War Breaks Out

When I got Martin Archer’s War Breaks Out, I was expecting a plodding Cold-War-Turned-Fuldapocalyptic-Hot story. The initial premise and the mediocre experience of the previous book I’d reviewed, Israel’s Next War, made me think that. Instead, I got one of the most crazy and just plain out-there examples of a World War III story I’ve ever read.

  • The timestream got scrambled. There are Eurofighter Typhoons and people who were injured in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, but at the same time there’s a 1980s WWIII and everyone is using M60s and T-62s. Oh and Belgium has F-15s for some reason.
  • We’re introduced to the main character (who frequently appears in a weird form of first-person similar to that present in Israel’s Next War) immediately. He’s a one-star general who gets a quick promotion worthy of spacesuit commandos. The president decides he’s just that good, and needs a fighter, not those deskbound bureaucrats! (To be fair, this is officially the third in a series with the same main character, but still).
  • Said main character promptly comes up with a bunch of gimmicky tricks and special ops to turn the tide of the impending war against the USSR. These range from tricking Soviet AWACS with mass transponder changes to landing troops with ferries in the Baltic. Naturally, they all work.
  • The actual battle scenes themselves are the least amusing and most clunky and repetitive. Except for something I haven’t seen in a while-the attempted Soviet invasion of Iceland! It’s been a while, Ísland. I missed you!
  • The book ends with one of the most ridiculously blatant examples of “Foreshadowing” for the next installment in the series that I’ve seen. It’s not foreshadowing so much as building a city of giant neon signs indicating the plot point, then causing it to be lit up in a giant fireworks display that’s internationally televised, telling the plot point in a Super Bowl commercial, and then carving the plot point into the moon for good measure.

 

This was an experience. It’s probably as bad as “World War 1990” in terms of pure writing quality, but I had a lot more fun reading (and reviewing) it. I guess a better example would be an even more rough version of Ian Slater.

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.