March Madness WWIII Style: Round 1 Results Part I

March Madness: World War III Novel Tournament Round 1 Results

Author’s Note: Today’s a travel day so I’m dividing Round 1 up. Red and White Regions today. Blue and Gold tomorrow.

Red Region

Fairly straightforward first round in this region. No major upsets and the favorites performed as expected for the most part.

#1 Red Storm Rising vs #8 Storming the Gap First Strike

Winner: Red Storm Rising

No real surprise here. RSR is a freight train of a novel and the gold standard for techno-thrillers. It has aged very well, continues to influence the genre, and maintains an almost fanatical following. Its opponent in this round was no slouch though. Storming the Gap is a solid novel based on a NATO-Warsaw Pact conflict in Western Europe. Brad Smith’s writing is improving with each novel and he’s climbing the ladder. His wargames are great as well.

#3 Cauldron vs #6 Red Metal

Winner: Cauldron

Red Metal would’ve been a much better competitor if it contained a handful of political characters to compliment the military ones. Unfortunately, it doesn’t and that makes a world of difference. Add to this the fact that Red Metal is far too Marine Corps-centric that it borders on fantasy. Cauldron on the other hand, brings the military and political realms together effortlessly and the result is a blockbuster novel that will be remembered for a while.

#4 Resurrection Day vs #5 Northern Fury

Winner: Northern Fury

The first upset of the tournament, although very few readers will consider it to be one. Resurrection Day is an interesting novel set ten years after the Cuban Missile Crisis went nuclear. A group of US characters are trying to prevent another nuclear war while simultaneously revealing that John F. Kennedy really didn’t start the war as many people believe. Book has a very anti-military bent to it, actually. Northern Fury, on the other hand, is classic WWIII fiction. Characters in uniform, a believable premise, smooth plot and realism.

#2 One Second After vs #7 Bear’s Claws

Winner: One Second After

Even though its not technically a WWIII novel, One Second After is about the aftermath of an EMP strike on the United States that sends the nation back to the 19th century. American defeat and renewal is a sub-genre that intrigues me. William R. Forstchen wrote a masterpiece that scared the ever-living crap out of many people, myself included. Bear’s Claws tells the story of a hypothetical third world war from the vantage points of a young Soviet motor-rifle officer and his civilian sister in Leningrad. A solid read for certain.

White Region

Judging by how Round 1 went in this region, the stage is being set for some very fierce battles in future rounds.

#1 Third Word War vs #8 2034

Winner: Third World War

As was the case in the Red Region, the first pairing here was akin to stopping a freight train with a feather duster. Third World War is where the World War III techno-thriller genre all started. Sir John Hackett’s work was a major influence for Tom Clancy and countless authors ever since. 2034, on the other hand, will barely be remembered. A very disappointing title, to say the least.

#3 Chieftains vs #6 The Sixth Battle

Winner: The Sixth Battle

The first real upset of the tourney! The Sixth Battle is a sleeper title. The geopolitical scenario is dated, but if you’re looking for a realistic depiction of  late 80s-early 90s naval warfare, strategy and technology, this book is for you. Chieftains is essentially a British Team Yankee and will appeal to readers looking for a good tactical-level depiction of war on the Central Front in the 1980s. This was a tight battle and could’ve gone either way.

#4 First Clash vs #5 Ghost Fleet

Winner: Ghost Fleet

In the spirit of full disclosure I feel it only fair to mention that I was partial to neither title. First Clash follows Canadian forces through the opening days of World War III in Europe, set in the 1980s. It was originally written as a training manual and reads like one. Ghost Fleet is about a near-future global war between the US and China. A solid novel, I never subscribed to the reviewers who compare it to Red Storm Rising or the Third World War. Nevertheless, Ghost Fleet is moving on to Round 2.

#2 Red Army vs #7 Bombs Away

Winner: Red Army

Harry Turtledove’s Bombs Away explores a Third World War that develops after the US decides to use nuclear weapons in the Korean War. Interesting premise and plot, but Turtledove is not known for his realistic military writing. Red Army, however, is all about realism. Ralph Peter’s classic tells the story of a NATO-Warsaw Pact WWIII in Europe exclusively from the Soviet perspective.


12 Replies to “March Madness WWIII Style: Round 1 Results Part I”

  1. WOW – I didn’t expect First Clash and especially Chieftains (my all time favourite) to be out in the first round. The competition is heating up here.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Somewhere I’ve got an autographed copy of Red Army. I was at DLI and Ralph Peters was Military Language Instructor there back in ’89.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. It has been a long while since I read Red Army so forgive me if my recollection is off. Wasn’t Peter’s estimation of the Red Army’s hardware capabilities bordering on fantasy?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I believe so, Chris. To be fair, Peters was using what information was available at the time but some of the capabilities seemed pretty unrealistic


  4. Just noticed the cat pawing at my still serviceable copy of John Hackett’s The Third World War as I opened this post. Timely omniscience? $2.95 for a paperback, which I’m sure I considered to be an alarming price back in the day.

    I found my way to Ralph Peters writing via Red Army. I finished a reread of The War in 2020 about a month back. Just swapped out an adversarial Japan with an adversarial China in my head. Either way Russia should probably keep an eye on Siberia and all the resource riches it contains.

    With over 20 physical books by Harry Turtledove I’ll consider myself a fan. With that said I found his writing in Bombs Away to be slightly off by what I consider to be his normal standard. It felt rushed, like it was late to a deadline. Also seemed unrealistic on the American home front with so many bombs going off over an extended period of time. Individual taste and preconception at play on my part more than likely.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I really like Turtledove’s WWI, and WWII alternative history novels. But yeah, as far as Bombs Away goes, the realism was lacking. Never understood why B-29s were the only bombers being used at the time and I agree with you about the homefront.


  5. Did you ever read another book by Ralph Peters called The War in 2020. An interesting read of where military writers in 1990 expected military tech to go in the next 30 years.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’ve read that book. Not a bad title, considering. Seems like he backed the wrong horse and now in 2021 its China we have to deal with instead of Japan


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