The War That Never Was

Wowsers, I think I found a sleeper gem this week. Brand new paperback showed up at my local bookstore. “The War That Never Was” by Michael Palmer. It’s one of the few pieces of military fiction that really works, because the author doesn’t try to come up with a contrived situation where only the Marines or a single Seal Team member or a super B-52 bomber (I’m talking about you, Dale Brown) or some other small unit saves ALL OF WESTERN CIVILIZATION AS WE KNOW IT. He also doesn’t have to bother with characterization, which most military-fiction authors do badly.

Basically, it’s a really amazing update to Sir John Winthrop Hackett’s The Third World War books. Hackett wrote the Third World War books back in the '70’s, as a kind of “what-if” the Warsaw Pact had gone after NATO with all the gloves off. Hackett’s books read sort of like a history/analysis, intercut with personal vignettes from different points of view. It’s very dry reading that only hardcore military fans would love, but Harold Coyle basically took The Third World War books as his background when he wrote Team Yankee (basically a very extended vignette of a US Armor Task Force during Hackett’s war).

“The War That Never Was” takes the premise that after the Cold War ended, a Soviet historian dusted off the results of the last major wargame that the Red Army had played against NATO, and then made contact with a US historian who had found the data from the last major wargame NATO had played against the Warsaw Pact. They decide to compare the results of each other wargame and then try to play it out, and what they came up with was reams of data. So the Soviet historian decides that he wants to really flesh out the data to make it interesting to read, so they start writing it as a novel. It’s set in 1989, which is basically right when the Soviet Union started falling apart.

It really is fascinating reading for those of us who have wondered how things might have turned out if the Soviets had tried to go out in a blaze of glory. And if you like playing strategy and war games, it really does make for some enjoyable reading. Hell, I’m only 70 pages in so far, and so far we’ve covered two theaters in the opening days of the war, the Scandavian Theater and the Med. The Sovs are kicking some major ass up in Norway, but so far they’ve been stymied in the Med, and Khadafi makes a huge error and pays for it big time.

Anyway, really recommend that you military fans pick it up. Nice change of pace from the usual stuff that pops up in this genre.

Thanks for the note. The book sounds interesting. I remember reading The Third World War over and over as a kid, especially the doomsday-style stuff about how NATO would have to use tactical nukes to keep the Soviets from sprinting to the coast of France. Man, I was a morbid teen.

1-Click my enemy, we meet again, and you have won again.

For some reason, that reminds me of that classic joke about World War III… a Soviet tank general runs into another Soviet tank general drinking in a cafe in Paris, and he asks, “So Comrade, who won the air war?”

Oh, and XPav, you gotta say that line about 1-Click in a Sean Connery accent. :)

Alright, got this book yesterday, erad the first 12 chapters.

Man, this thing is so dry its like eating puffed rice cakes plain. Sure, the plot is interesting, but other than that it reads like a laundry list of of names, places, and ships.

I was slightly depressed when the entire attack on West Germany was covered in about 2 pages, before they moved onto other things.