In Red Storm Rising, Tom Clancy imagines a situation in which Cold War Era Russia finds itself an oil shortage for at least a couple years.
The Politboro sees its only option is to seize the oil in the Persian Gulf in such a way that the NATO alliance will be afraid to retaliate.
It devises an invasion of Europe in hopes that the military action will conceal their need for oil.
After setting up that scenario in about 30 pages, Clancy goes for nearly 600 more pages about a month of fighting—particularly the submarine warfare—between the Soviet and NATO Alliance members.
The novel repeatedly cycles through a huge, cast of predominantly male characters whose work is their lives.
They watch screens, listen to beeps, and say things like, “The sonobuoys have our torp but nothing else,” “Dead in the water,” and “Roger that.”
In the novel’s final post-war scene, the American General asks the Russian General, “Why didn’t you tell us you needed oil? … We would have demanded and gotten concessions of some kind—but don’t you think we would have tried to prevent all this?”
Similarly, Red Star Risingisn’t worth the effort expended by author and readers.
Armageddon is a sprawling novel set as World War II ends and the Soviets move to turn Europe into Communist satellites.
The themes Leon Uris raises are as familiar as today’s news, but easier to examine with a degree of objectivity in a 75-year-old setting.
War-weary Americans want to pull out of Germany and let the Germans fend for themselves. General A. J. Hansen begs American politicians to plan for a post-war political settlement. He sees withdrawal would give rise to a more serious threat than Hitler’s Reich.
Hansen assembles a team of experts lead in everything from electrical generation to municipal government to design a plan for governing Germany after the war. Hansen sends them to a Nazi stronghold where they deploy and refine their plan.
Then Hansen redirects them to Berlin to begin guiding the city into rebuilding on democratic principles before the Russians can build Berlin into a Communist satellite.
When the Russians block all land routes into the city, leaving Berliners to face starvation in the frigid winter, Hansen fights against Congressional and military leaders to win presidential approval to attempt to supply the city by air.
Although Hansen is behind most of the novel’s action, he’s rarely seen in the novel. Uris reserves the role of the hero for the team of men who put their individual expertise at the service of America. Uris lists yards of facts about the Berlin airlift, emphasizing the monumental achievement and personal self-effacement of the men who made it happen.
It takes a rare kind of man to serve his country without the benefit of pyrotechnics or reward and a different kind of courage to keep your mouth shut and go on working and believing when you are positive those around you are wrong. We don’t have enough men of this kind of dedication.
by Leon Uris
1964 bestseller #4
My grade: B+