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: Northern Fury H-Hour

Northern Fury H-Hour

(note: I received a review copy).

When I first got into Command: Modern Air/Naval Operations, I noticed a scenario set called Northern Fury, describing a third world war with a surviving USSR in the early 1990s. One of the first scenarios I played was one of the smaller ones there, called “A Cold And Lonely Place.”

Since then, I’ve been following the scenario set, and was delighted to hear that the novel had been announced. Having gotten a review copy and been cleared to post, I can say that H-Hour, the first book in the Northern Fury series, works well and dodges a lot of the pitfalls it could have fallen into. The August Coup has succeeded and the Third World War is not far off, with this story focusing not on Central Europe but in other theaters, particularly Norway and its waters.

First, it needs to be said: This book wears its technothriller heritage and inspiration on its sleeve, for better or worse. It has many of the prime technothriller elements in it. That being said, it handles them well, and in particular manages to escape-and escape completely- two pits that fiction like it tends to fall into.

The first is that it does not feel like just a rote let’s play/after action report of Command. Without giving too much away, focusing a lot on land makes it seem better, deeper, and out of the sim’s comfort zone, so to speak.

The second is more impressive and more important. Northern Fury manages to avoid what I call “Steel Panthers Characterization.” Named after how in the computer wargame “Steel Panthers”, units will have a rank and surname in the language of their nationality, Steel Panthers Characterization is when Character Name X controlling Military Weapon Y will appear in scene Z, with no characterization save for maybe a thrown-in national or rank stereotype. They will appear, operate the necessary piece of military equipment, and often die in the process. Then another flat character will appear.

In Northern Fury, this doesn’t happen. While there is a lot of viewpoint hopping, all the characters and their arcs have meat on their bones. This was an impressive feat that did a lot to raise my opinion of the book.

So, to briefly conclude, Northern Fury: H-Hour is both an excellent example of how a simulation can be used in the creation of a novel (like the original Harpoon tabletop version was for Red Storm Rising) and a very good throwback to the technothriller/WWIII fiction of days past.

Northern Fury: H-Hour releases on May 6. Its official website is here

New Year Blogging

Happy New Year

Happy New Year. My rough Fuldapocalypse plans are as follows.

  • Northern Fury will hopefully release soon, and I eagerly await the chance to review it thoroughly.
  • My military science fiction collection has grown and I’m in that kind of mood, so expect to see a lot more of that.
  • Finally, I’m looking to review some “classics”-the earlier books that helped create and forge their respective (sub)genres. You’ll know them when you see them.

 

Getting this blog going was one of my favorite things of 2018, so here’s to 2019 in Fuldapocalypse!

Fuldapocalypse Blog Plans

Fuldapocalypse has been very, very effective for me. Going in, I expected to be reviewing on a very narrow continuum from Hackett/The War That Never Was on one end to Red Army on the other. To distinguish the works in this one narrow, specific, subgenre, my formal scale would be useful in determining just how they differed.

Then I started branching out. I think it was my review of Axis of Evil that proved surprisingly good-while I didn’t think that highly of the book itself, I liked that I branched out from the “classic 198X WWIII” genre. This was coupled with me realizing that military/techno/action thriller fiction was a lot more varied than my previous narrow perspective had indicated. And that was a problem for my scale. It’s wonderful for me, but it’s not so much for a very strict scale.

The Scale

Obviously, “The Only Score That Really Matters” is fine. So is “The wha?”, although some stories are meant to be more character-based than others.

I have a little bit of an issue with “Zombie Sorceresses”, although I’d think it’s a matter of bias. I think a contrived scenario is more easily “swallowed” by me if the surrounding story is good or if the reveal is handled well. And I think a problem happens, as has happened in this blog, a story that’s explictly paranormal happens.

Then there’s “Rivets”. I think my biggest problem with “Rivets” is that this genre tends to be very infodumpy, and almost everyone already knows this. It’s like going shopping for giant SUVs and being told that they don’t get the best gas mileage. Yes, it’s true, but it’s also not exactly shocking. I feel like I’m repeating myself. “Yes, this has a lot of infodumps in it”. “Yes, this also has a lot infodumps in it.” “Yes, this also has a lot of infodumps in it”.

But the biggest and most jarring one is “Icelands.” It’s both too prescient and too inaccurate at the same time. At one end, it can be like “Rivets”, where I’m repeating that a book in a genre has most of the cliches from that genre. Not exactly shocking. At the other, well, the Iceland Scale itself feels irrelevant if applied to a genre other than “Red Storm Rising knockoff.”

Then there’s the lack of an ‘action’ category in the scale. It’s kind of folded into “The ‘Wha?'”, but given that cheap thrillers live and die based on how good the action is, I figure it deserves more focus.

So I might change some scale categories and see what works, and I also want to do some “unstructured reviews”, particularly of books where the scale categories may not apply. (For instance, if I was doing a review of an outright science fiction novel, both “Icelands” and “Zombie Sorceresses” would be out of place, the former for not really applying and the latter for being redundant.)

Which brings me to…

Book Review Plans

I’ve been mostly winging it with Fuldapocalypse. I’ve figured that since I want to have fun first and foremost and would probably get sidetracked anyway, I wouldn’t make a rigid “review schedule”. But I’ve become more selective about what I want to review here. If my reaction to it is formulaic, I don’t want to just instantly review the latest blog-suitable book I read.

Thankfully, I have a pile of previously read and accessible books I can use to tide me over until the new releases emerge soon (fingers crossed). There’s a few cheap thrillers, including one by an author I like (you’ll know if/when I review it) upcoming, and there’s also the biggie. The real biggie.

Northern Fury. I’ve been following the Command scenario set for a while, and seeing a novelization of it is amazing. However I personally feel about it (and it’s obviously too early to judge a book that hasn’t been released yet), I wish its creators the absolute best of luck. A weird part of me even wants to deliberately hold back on reading “conventional” WW3 books before Northern Fury H-Hour’s release so that I can be more unbiased.

That’s probably thinking too hard-after all, my mind is heading towards less “Icelandic” books already, and the goal is to have fun here.

I’ve been having a lot of fun with Fuldapocalypse, and hope to have even more fun with it as I experiment and read more and more!