The Third World War: August 1985

The Third World War: August 1985 is not a real novel. It’s not about people; it’s about populations.

All-text cover in black and gray text on white background.
The text is as dull as the cover.

The book is classified as a fantasy: Tanks, submarines, and nuclear war heads take the place of wizards, elves, and magic wands.

Its authors are “General Sir John Hackett and Other Top-ranking NATO Generals and Advisors.”

They begin their book with three pages listing acronyms used in the text.

The text itself is written as a post-war analysis compiled at the conclusion of the war. It certainly sounds like a military analysis: Ponderous prose in passive voice.

Today’s readers will have difficulty getting past the first chapter.

The map of the world is very different today than it was in 1978 when the generals and advisors were concocting this tale: Germany, divided then, is once more reunited. The map of Africa has been redrawn, countries renamed.

What remains of interest are small bits, as, for example, the military men say socialist countries reject American-style democracy because they see it as substituting corporate rule for Soviet political rule or the assertion that Europeans distrust America’s judgment because it wasn’t invaded in WWI or WWII.

Skip this fantasy.

Read history instead.

There’s no humanity in this tale.

The Third World War: August 1985
by Gen. Sir John Hackett et al.
Macmillan, © 1978. 368 p.
1979 bestseller #09 My grade: C

©2019 Linda G. Aragoni

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From Here to Eternity is far too long

Hundreds of novels tell us war is hell.

In From Here to Eternity, James Jones tells us the peace-time military isn’t any better. The officers are incompetent and unethical, the enlisted men are social and moral misfits.

Recruits seeking refuge from bumming through the depression know it is just a matter of time until America enter the war. Shiploads of them have are stationed in Hawaii waiting for their time to fight the Germans.

The infantrymen of A company spend their time boozing, brawling, gambling, and queuing for sex at one of the thriving brothels. The officers are similarly occupied, except that instead of brawling, they connive for promotions in a dignified manner.

When the characters are not passed out drunk, they talk. They don’t make sense, but they talk. Mostly they talk in slang, but occasionally they break into long paragraphs that sound like transcripts from a graduate philosophy seminar.

From Here to Eternity is 860 pages of mind-numbing detail about people you wouldn’t want in your living room doing things you don’t want done in your town.

You have better things to do from here to eternity than read this boring book.

From Here to Eternity
by James Jones
Delacort Press, 1951
860 pages
1953 bestseller #5
© 2013 Linda Gorton Aragoni

The Houses in Between explores failed peace promises

For years, Howard Spring was intrigued by the idea of writing a novel about why the peaceful world promised by the Crystal Palace in 1851 was never realized. Spring takes his answer from a line in a music hall song “You could see the Crystal Palace if it wasn’t for the houses in between.”

Sarah Rainborough Undridge, born in 1848, was three when her parents took her to the opening of the Crystal Palace. Before long, Sarah’s parents were divorced, her mother remarried to Baron Burnage, whose first wife has gone off with another man.

Sarah spends most of her childhood and youth in the company of a governess, Maggie Whales, who becomes a successful novelist (published by Charles Dickens) but remains a sensible and loving friend to Sarah for decades.

Sarah is not beautiful, brilliant, or talented. Through Maggie’s influence she becomes perceptive, thoughtful and reflective. As she grows older, Sarah begins writing the story of her life. The Houses In Between, including its title, is presented as her fictional memoir, finished shortly before her death on New Year’s Day 1948.

Spring is a fine writer. He conveys personalities and atmosphere so vividly they appear in the mind’s eye in streaming video. Yet the book, for all its richness of character and history, feels flat, which is Spring’s point: Virtue is lovely and fragile; reality is ugly and durable.

The Houses in Between
Howard Spring
Harper, 1951
550 pages
1952 Bestseller #10
My grade: A-
© 2012 Linda Gorton Aragoni

From Here to Eternity Shows Hell of Peace Time Military

Hundreds of novels tell us war is hell. In From Here to Eternity, James Jones tells us the peace-time military isn’t any better. The officers are incompetent and unethical, the enlisted men social and moral misfits.

Everyone knows it is just a matter of time until America enters World War II.  The military looks like a ticket out of the Great Depression.

Shiploads of recruits have are stationed in Hawaii waiting for their time to fight the Germans. The infantrymen of A company spend their time boozing, brawling, gambling, and queuing for sex at one of the thriving brothels.

The officers are similarly occupied except that instead of brawling they connive for promotions in a dignified manner.

When the characters are not passed out drunk, they talk. They don’t make sense, but they talk. Mostly they talk in slang, but occasionally they break into long paragraphs that sound like transcripts from a graduate philosophy seminar.

From Here to Eternity is 860 pages of mind-numbing detail about people you wouldn’t want in your living room doing things you don’t want done in your town.

You have better things to do from here to eternity than read this boring book.

From Here to Eternity
by James Jones
Delacort Press, 1951
860 pages
My grade C+

© 2011 Linda Gorton Aragoni