Book Review: World War 1990

I’ll be taking a short detour from D+15 to present a book review. The other day a book review on happened to catch my eye. Coiler, the author of that website, is a prolific reviewer of World War III fiction who posted a review for World War 1990: Battle of the Three Seas by William Stroock. This was the sixth installment of Stroock’s World War 1990 series of alternative history books, set on…you guessed it….a world war taking place in 1990. I’ve read the entire series, having just recently finished the latest installment. So, given the subject matter of this blog I thought a quick review of the first book of the series would be worthwhile.

World War:1990 starts off two weeks into a global war. Warsaw Pact armies have been halted in West Germany and NATO leaders are contemplating a counter-offensive to eject the Soviet, Polish, and East German forces from the Federal Republic. There is no real background presented to give readers an idea of the conflict’s origins or events in the previous two weeks. They are simply dropped in at a point where British and French leaders are pushing hard for the counteroffensive to begin, while the US President George H.W. Bush vacillates. Meanwhile in Moscow, Mikhail Gorbachev is resisting strong calls from the Politburo to break the deadlock in Germany with nuclear weapons. In order to relieve the pressure there and satisfy the hardliners, Gorbachev orders an invasion of Alaska to open a new theater of operations in the conflict. Soviet airborne forces land in Nome to secure the town’s port and airfield. Somehow the local residents manage to defeat the elite paratroopers and sink a ship filled with heavy equipment meant to reinforce the Soviets on the ground. The point of view moves next to the Northern Flank where NATO naval and air forces are taking the war to the Soviet doorstep. A series of large battles take place with both sides taking heavy losses. The US Navy even loses a carrier, but the Soviet offensive in Norway is blunted. From there the point of view oscillates between the political decision and subsequent military preparations for a US-led liberation of Eastern Europe, code-named Operation Eastern Storm. Bush had made his decision.

 I was expecting a respectable degree of realism, a believable plot and seamless flow from World War:1990. Sadly, I found a heaping pile of disappointment instead. Or maybe my expectations were simply on a Porsche level, and World War: 1990 turned out to be a ’98 Civic with bald tires.

The book is best described as a stimulating concept doomed by unskilled execution. Let’s begin with plot issues. It’s 1990 and the Warsaw Pact invasion of West Germany has been stopped. While the Soviet Union licks its wounds, fighting erupts in other theaters. That is all well and good. What is not acceptable is the scattered and senseless background information the reader is given. We learn the ‘what’ and ‘how’ but Strook inconveniently forgets to include the ‘why.’ Without a deep enough backstory its like diving into a novel at the midway point and reading from there. The Soviet airborne unit vs Nome civilians storyline is borderline Alien Space Bats. The characters lack development, and aren’t realistic. Neither is the outcome. In some scenes, the author gives detailed descriptions of Soviet paratroopers playing Nintendo games. Stroock seems to have better knowledge of Tecmo Bowl than of Soviet airborne units and operations! The point of view then shifts to the Norwegian Sea. Strook’s writing really falls apart here. His lack of military knowledge becomes glaringly apparent in the passages describing the trials and tribulations of the USS.Stirling, a fictional Spruance class destroyer. He is not very well versed on Spruance class destroyers, their capabilities or US naval terminology and tactics of the time period. For example, the skipper and XO of the Stirling are conveniently always on the bridge during battle scenes. US ship commanders fight the battle from CIC. In the real world when sailors and officers are talking about their fellow US Navy ships, they say something along the lines of “Here comes the New Jersey” or “We’re coming parallel to the Eisenhower.” In this book, Strook has them saying “Here comes USS New Jersey.” and such. It doesn’t feel right, mostly because it is not.

The characters are all cardboard and the dialogue not realistic at all. Most of them are modelled on the real world political and military leaders of the time period. The politicians all come across in their predictable, stereotypical manners. There’s little presented to allow the reader to compare them to how they acted or came across in real life. The military characters are just sad. It becomes glaringly obvious early on that Stroock has never served in the military, nor has he researched the subject very well, despite his claims otherwise.

The author is a history professor at Raritan Valley Community College in Somerset County, New Jersey. I know this school quite well, having taken a number of summer courses there as an undergrad. I met many excellent professors and instructors there, some of whom continue  teaching there today. Two men who had quite positive influences on me were both history professors. So, when I found out that the author of this book was an adjunct history professor at RVCC, I decided to give his book a try. I’m almost sorry that I did. If William Stroock teaches as badly as he writes novels, the students at RVCC are in serious trouble.

The book is filled with typos and bad grammar. I can excuse bad grammar, however, there is no excuse for misspellings and such in this day and age. His editors must have been some of his students. The real horror is found in mistakes so obvious that they will make you cringe or groan. Like when he describes a “Mig-27 Flanker.” If you’re writing a military novel, there’s no excuse for making a basic foul up like that.

The internet is a wonderful thing and has advanced our world in countless ways. On the flip side, the internet has also opened an avenue for unpolished, mediocre (using the term very lightly) authors like Stroock to pedal their half-baked manuscripts to an audience and fan base that really cannot discern a good technothriller from slop. Alternative history is all the rage now. Believable military techno-thrillers are also now enjoying a surge in popularity. Strook probably assumed he could write a novel on how World War III could have played out in 1990 and it would be guaranteed money in the bank. Well, he thought wrong.

To make a long story short, I recommend you avoid World War: 1990 and the rest of the series at all costs. I feel bad about being so critical about this man’s work, but I can’t help it. The book is so bad that it’s insulting to any and all readers of the genre.

I give it one mushroom cloud out of five.

37 Replies to “Book Review: World War 1990”

  1. soooo…. I take it that it was litter-box fodder?

    On the concept of locals taking down VDV…. Yeah ,that’s a stretch. but not as much as you might think, given the logistical tail the Soviets would need.
    Remember, the Afghanis proved its possible to hurt them bad and beat them. Fighting in Alaska depending on WHEN makes giving them what for possible.

    If its Summer, my coin is on the Soviets. If its late fall or anything resembling winter? Locals are gonna hurt them bad. Just an opinion. Your mileage will vary.

    One guy with a hunting rifle can hold up a platoon. Imagine what a group of them can do…. 😛

    on a waffling Senior Bush…. Ummmmm no. Don’t buy it.

    I’m gonna take your word on the book being crap- the synopsis of the plot is pretty blunt and if there is no “fluff” to explain stuff, it might as well be a short story padded out the arse… I like a good tale, robust character explanations and well written/thought out background. Not to the level of explanation that WEB Griffith does in 75% of his books…. but enough to explain what’s up and who’s who. 🙂

    I’ve been debating on snagging a few of the War 3 Alt History novels- and I know now to avoid this one. Thanks for that.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s one of those books that’s so bad it’s good. There are some good recent WW3 ALT books out there. I recommend Northern Fury first and foremost.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Oh where to begin with the roast. I’ll start with the year. If one were to assume Gorbachev were still in power of a war-like Soviet Union, 1990 would be a particularly bad year to set it in. The USSR was already having significant “troubles” in the southern republics by then, and they had lost East Germany as a political puppet by March (though they still had the forward bases). The Polish situation in this blog’s timeline would be worse given the Poles ejected the Communists in 1989, and would be Pact-wide by the summer.

    If I were to set a date for a hypothetical Warrior Gorby to move west, it would be 1987, shortly after the Reykjavík summit failure. Somehow I doubt the Soviets would have done quite as well as they have in this timeline though, even though NATO would have had less strategic warning.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Those are all valid points, Steve. It’s like I mentioned in the post yesterday; lack of a backstory made a bad novel even worse. I like ’87 for a starting point. 1990 is kind of far fetched, especially if we’re going on the real world timeline.


  3. The thing about the Alaska scenario is that the locals up there know the terrain like the back of their hands, many (the majority) hunt and guns are plentiful. I was stationed in Alaska in the 80’s, their National Guard units were better than most I encountered over the years. They actually intercepted several Special Forces ODA teams by watching what they knew were the only useable DZ’s in the area during Brim Frost exercises. In a wartime situation you could anticipate a similar outcome by both the Eskimo Scouts (AKARNG) and local populace. So far as sinking the ship, well that’s a whole different ball of wax; paratroops are one thing, given the terrain in Alaska.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks for chiming in. I was hoping to hear from someone who’d been stationed up there around that time. Good points you’ve brought up about the terrain and folks up there. They know their areas quite well.
      I’ve read stories about Brim Frost exercises back in the 80s and the weather conditions for some of them. Wow!


      1. What would you like to know? I was at Wainwright 81-83 with E Troop 1st Cav (Air). Happy to answer any questions you might have. Brim Frost 83 was a cold one, guys from the lower 48 were pretty miserable, the home team? Yeah it was cold but not unbearable!

        Liked by 1 person

        1. By the time I came around, Brim had turned into Northern Edge. It was very air-centric by then. What was the focus of Brim in the early 80s? Arctic/Alaskan defense, or something more broad? I can imagine how the guys from the lower 48 felt. You definitely had a home field advantage!

          Liked by 1 person

          1. I was pretty unhappy with the cold my first winter, I arrived in November and it meant moving from 60 degrees and sunny to -20 and dark most of the time. Summer made it all worthwhile. We were focused on Alaska defense, although being only a light infantry brigade we would only have been able to buy time for units from the lower 48 to get up there; but they probably would have needed to move with a purpose. We weren’t equipped with the top of the line stuff, my unit had the G model Cobra gunships (we did have some extremely locked on pilots, most had multiple tours in Vietnam). The brigade also had the 90mm recoilless rifle, no TOWs or Dragons (big Army thinking believed that the cold made the wire too brittle to be reliable, yet the Marines took TOWs to Norway for Battle Griffin exercises and intended to use them there). The planning was around large scale raids/incursions by Spetsnaz, and invasion by either VDV or Naval Infantry. I remember watching the World War III mini-series with David Soul and Cathy Lee Crosby and laughing at all the mistakes they made – not the least of which was putting 172nd Brigade HQ at Wainwright and showing the barracks 4/9 Infantry used as the Brigade HQ. Climate wise we had a homefield advantage, but like I said our true ace in the hole were the Eskimo scouts; they may have been ARNG but they were good to go, top of the line field craft

            Liked by 2 people

            1. Yeah, summer in Alaska is a wonderful time. -20 is a little extreme. I’ve heard stories from bros who ended up at Eielson. Back in the day I was only been up there for 2 week clips once in a blue moon. Elmendorf and then Eielson once for a Red Flag Alaska.
              Well your unit didn’t have top of the line gear but it sounds like your Cobra drivers were pretty good at least. No TOWs or Dragons sounds like typical Army BS. Did they even try the TOWs and Dragons out in extreme cold before making that decision? 🙂

              The planning sounds realistic. Raids, airborne and amphibious operations. You know, I loved that miniseries. First saw it as a kid and its goofy as hell but it stuck with me. Looking back now, yep lots of mistakes.

              Thanks so much for sharing some of your experiences. I’ve definitely learned some interesting things and it’s great to hear from guys like you who’ve actually been out there and all.

              Liked by 1 person

  4. All I had to see was “sixth novel in the series”….he’s a keyboard pounder and writes the kind of dreck I wouldn’t spend $.99 at the Kindle Store for one of his books

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Thanks for the review! I’ll definitely be steering clear of this one. Its a shame that this book and series is a dud. There is not a ton of Cold War content out there, so it’s all the worse when subpar junk like this comes around.

    Any recommendations for something good? I’ve read the usual subjects a few times through at this point (Team Yankee, Red Army, the Clancy stuff)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. My pleasure, Miller.

      Northern Fury is a very good and recent piece of WWIII fiction. The authors did a great job on it and the next installment is coming out soon.


      1. Read Northern Fury and enjoyed it immensely. Cannot wait for the next installment. One of the authors wrote a series of dramatized AARs from CMANO (at the time) on the Grogheads forums that were really fantastic. I believe those AARs are partly what led to the book being written, though I don’t know the full backstory to that.

        Really looking forward to your book! Can’t wait for more quality Cold War content. There is a lot of stuff to look forward to coming soon, both in the literary and gaming world. Working on a project myself, but its still under wraps.

        Liked by 2 people

        1. The whole concept for the Northern Fury novel pretty much came from the Northern Fury scenarios. They put together some very detailed and fun scenarios. Pretty good foundation for a novel.

          Thanks! Looking forward to hearing more on your project when the time comes!

          Liked by 1 person

  6. Wow, thanks for the review. I’m always looking for something new and interesting to read, but I’ll steer clear of that.

    I have only ever thrown away two books in my life (I feel like destroying or throwing books away is sinful), and one of them was a technothriller about a Mexican drug cartel hiring mercenary pilots from the eastern bloc to fly MiGs to defend cartel interests, including missions over the Southwest United States. God damn, it was awful. That one and Ben Bova’s “Peacekeepers” – straight in the trash when I was finished.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Nice review, Mike. Have to say I found the same on this series.
    I’ve kept plugging away just for completeness’ sake (and as a KU “freebie” quick burn read to keep my reading numbers up), but the language, technical clumsiness and poor plot set-up / maintenance was a real drag. In particular this one jumping in two footed part way through without the decency to establish any meaningful context was just rude.
    While it’s not perhaps the lowest rung on the WWIII novelisation ladder (that’s reserved for Ian Slater and Rosone/Watson, amongst many others), it’s pretty near ground level.
    We need to crowd source a good bibliography for these …

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Luke.
      It was a pretty amateurish read. And I agree, the rest of the books are the same.
      Oh, I’ve not forgotten about Mr Slater’s WWIII work. That will probably be a four part review. Lots to discuss there.

      Good idea, an up to date bib on WWIII fiction would be helpful for a lot of folks! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Glad to hear those IS ones will get their fair treatment – dipped into a couple more of those over Christmas, but have drawn a line now and won’t be going back (he says, confidently…)

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Curiosity pushed me through the first three, but that was back in 1993 as a teenager and I didn’t know better. More recently I went back and read them again. They’ve not aged well

          Liked by 1 person

    1. Northern Fury is a great read. I had the honor of doing an early review on it, actually. Its in the Book Review section. The authors are frequent visitors to this blog, as I am to theirs.


  8. There’s almost a…freedom…of reading shlock books like The Guardians series, or C.A.D.S., or The Wingman or any one of a half-dozen other bad WWIII novels written in the 80s. They’re shlock. You know they’re shlock. There’s a reason you found the first volume in the spinny book rack at the checkout at 7-11 and not, say, mentioned in the Utne Reader. It’s like pizza, or drive-through fast food. Is it bad for you? Absolutely. Are you going to enjoy it? Hell yes. Should you make a diet of it? God no.

    But books that try to toe the line between say, early Tom Clancy and the aforementioned, they’re more pernicious. They’re like the Olive Garden or Red Lobster of books. Oh, sure, it’s a sit-down meal, with menus, bespoke orders, and all that…but at the heart of it it is little better than fast food. Just as terrible for you, but masquerading as real food, and you will regret it in the morning.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You know, the Wingman series is probably my one guilty pleasure as far as reading is concerned. I love them. A main character named after a British plane who can kill 100 MiGs in an F-16XL with just 4 Sidewinders? The fighter pilot in me still loves those reads 🙂

      But you are right. And I love the Olive Garden/Red Lobster line. Accurate and funny at the same time. If you’re looking for good seafood, go to a real seafood restaurant….preferably in a state with a coastline. Same goes for WWIII fiction. 🙂


  9. You should try The Kidd Incident. It’s a pretty interesting WW3 scenario blog about a hypothetical modern war between the US and China.

    Liked by 1 person

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