March Madness: World War III Novel Tournament: Sweet Sixteen
We’re getting into the heart of the tournament now. Half the field has been eliminated and the remaining titles are the cream of the crop, so to speak. The contests will become more heated as we advance deeper into the tourney. The chances of a major upset are increasing as the matchups grow more competitive. A few rounds remain and anything can still happen!
Two very exciting contests in this region pitting two old friends in one game, and a pair of unique and more contemporary novels in the other.
#1 Red Storm Rising vs #3 Cauldron
Winner: Red Storm Rising
Larry Bond was the preordained winner of this contest seeing how he wrote Cauldron and was Tom Clancy’s co-author on Red Storm Rising. Bond applied some of the lessons learned from RSR into the later novel and the result was a high caliber technothriller. However, the king remains supreme. Red Storm advances.
#2 One Second After vs #5 Northern Fury
Winner: Northern Fury
This was a very tight contest. On one hand there’s Northern Fury, a contemporary technothriller covering a NATO-Warsaw Pact war in the mid-90s, assuming the Cold War never fully ended. One Second After is a tale about the America that emerges in the aftermath of an EMP strike that cripples the country, as well as most of the world. Northern handles WWIII up front and in detail. In One Second, its essentially an afterthought. That’s the factor that led to Northern Fury’s victory here. Upset #1 in the Sweet Sixteen.
The top seeds in this region projected their power against stiffer competition in the Sweet Sixteen round, setting up a heavyweight bout in the next round.
#1 Third World War vs #6 The Sixth Battle
Winner: Third World War
Third World War’s broad scope is its most powerful weapon as this contest proved. The Sixth Battle is a solid novel with great air and naval depth, however, when it comes to the geopolitics and regional conflict that serve as the background, both come up short. Sir John Hackett’s work moves forward.
#2 Red Army vs #5 Ghost Fleet
Winner: Red Army
A battle between an old school Cold War era novel and a more contemporary technothriller. Ghost Fleet was an overly-techno technothriller with characters who never really made a deep impression on the reader. Red Army, on the other hand balances characters, technology and the military aspects almost perfectly. It has its weaknesses, but Red Army emerged the victor here.
The battlelines are clearly drawn in this region following the Sweet Sixteen contests. The contrasts in the writing styles of the authors, and the eras of publication were significant factors in these battles.
#1 Alas Babylon vs #3 Sword Point
Winner: Alas Babylon
Sword Point is a title that never really left a lasting impression with its readers. Add to that the fact it only covers a regional conflict between the US and Soviet Union in the Persian Gulf area, not a full blown WWIII. Alas Babylon doesn’t explore WWIII in depth, but as previously mentioned, it handles the military aspect quite well and the war has a direct effect on the main characters. And it remains a popular title now, decades after its initial release. Can’t say the same for Sword Point.
#2 Arc Light vs #5 The War That Never Was
Winner: Arc Light
Arc Light: a limited nuclear war, followed by a conventional war, and topped off with the prospect of a larger, earth-killing nuclear war. The War That Never Was: Late 80s-early 90s NATO-Warsaw Pact conflict explored with a major emphasis on naval and air operations. Two excellent titles and both are underrated these days. But Arc Light fits the bill of a Cold War era WWIII technothriller far better.
This region’s #1 seed is the most vulnerable of all and the remaining field contains a couple of novels that can knock off the #1 seed on any given day.
#1 On the Beach vs #3 The Last Ship
Winner: On the Beach
A classic novel that became an almost-classic movie. An average novel that was turned into a pretty decent TV series (for a couple of seasons at least). David Brinkley’s garrulous novel finally meets its maker, even though I’m not fully comfortable with On the Beach advancing. Oh well.
#2 Team Yankee vs #5 Tomorrow
Winner: Team Yankee
Not much of a contest here. Team Yankee is a heavyweight. An effective, well-written novel that tells the story of a US armored team (company-sized formation) fighting its way through WWIII in West Germany. Add to that the fact it was released in the late 80s when the Cold War was still going on, and technothrillers were enjoying their golden age. Having said that, I’ll always enjoy Tomorrow and the picture it portrayed of what a pre-ICBM nuclear WWIII might look like.