World War III Themes In Contemporary Pop Culture Part II

In the later half of the 00s, at a time when WWIII-themes in fiction, television and cinema were scarce, a handful of notable books and television shows were released. Together, they managed to keep the WWIII genre afloat through some difficult times.

The 2006 TV series Jericho was one of those life rafts. The show was developed around a rather unorthodox World War III scenario, to say the least. Late on a quiet weekday afternoon, the residents of Jericho, Kansas are going about their lives. Many are watching a televised live address by the president to the House and Senate. Suddenly, TV sets turn to snow and a mushroom cloud is seen rising on the western horizon from the direction of Denver, the nearest major city. As the hours and initial days go by, it becomes apparent the attacks were not limited to Denver. Other cities were also hit. Outside of that, there’s little solid information about what is happening. After a few additional days of no news, the federal government reaches out to the citizens of the nation through the internet and television. A live video appears on television screens displaying a podium. As the citizens of Jericho gather in a local bar to watch, Minuteman III missiles streak into the sky from missile silos relatively nearby. People rush out into the streets to see the sight and begin to discuss what might be going on. Suddenly there’s a bright flash announcing the detonation of a nuclear warhead at high altitude and subsequent EMP burst. Power fails, communications go down and the town of Jericho is now cut off from the world completely.

As far as WWIII-themes go, this one passed the test, if barely. There were mushroom clouds, and a distinct military point of view as the series went on. Unfortunately, the path the storyline ended up with a distinct left-leaning Hollywood slant. The nuclear destruction of twenty-plus American cities did not come at the hands of an adversarial nation-state or Islamic terrorist group. It was engineered by a group of American politicians as part of a plot to sweep in and reshape the country according to their ideologies. These politicians were Republicans, naturally.

Regardless, I was able to put aside the Hollywood-leftwing slant and enjoy the show. As television series go, it was good. To the point that it developed a cult following. When CBS announced its cancellation after one season, a grass roots effort emerged and forced the network to order a second series. Jericho is still available today on Netflix and I’m not ashamed to admit that I binge watch its two seasons at least once a year. 😊

One Second After was the literary life raft for the WWIII genre around this time. Most readers are likely familiar with this novel. Since it’s on my list to be reviewed here later in the summer, I’m not going to go into detail about it now. Needless to say, the book opened the doors for a new genre of post-apocalypse survivalist fiction. Most of the titles that followed was straight up pulp, but One Second After itself was well received and continues to be an influential work. It served as one of the inspirations for my own Final Days of America blog.

In early 2014, Ukraine underwent a revolution. Russia’s response was aggressive and direct. It annexed Crimea and sewed the seeds for an insurrection in the eastern part of Ukraine. The West was alarmed and it appeared a new Cold War might be upon us. It did not take long for fiction writers to read the tealeaves and start work on what looked like a new generation of Big War Thrillers (Coiler’s term, not mine). Over the coming years we saw a number of works released that were centered on a NATO-Russia conflict in Ukraine, Eastern Europe or the Baltics. Right off the bat I have to say that none of these titles came close to the quality of the late 1980s technothrillers released by the likes of Larry Bond, Tom Clancy and Harold Coyle. Times change, as do writing styles. It is safe to say, however, that the latest batch of NATO-Russia WWIII fiction has not left a lasting impression with many readers, or shoehorned its way into the conscience of pop culture like the forefathers of the genre did. Below, I’ve selected a few of the more contemporary releases and will provide a brief summary of the each work, as well as a brief opinion.

Red Metal– Probably one of the best WWIII titles to come out recently. This is a Big War Thriller done 21st Century style, setting up a NATO-Russia conflict on multiple fronts and seeing them through to a satisfying conclusion. The book isn’t exactly Red Storm Rising, but it’s a solid book. Mark Greany did an excellent job. He’s a great writer, although perhaps a little too inclined towards intelligence agent type thriller writing and not firm military technothrillers for my liking. Definitely worth checking out if you have not already.

The Red Line– Walt Gragg’s novel can best be summed up as a 1980s type NATO-WP conflict disguised in modern day clothing. A resurgent Russia launches an all-out offensive into Germany. The undermanned and outgunned US forces have little hope of defeating them until US Army Staff Sergeant George O’Neill manages to reestablish the communications links that were severed by Russian forces early on in the fighting. In essence an IT specialist saves the day. 😊 If the book wasn’t written in such  languid fashion I could deal with that. Unfortunately, it comes like the product of a lazy author.

War With Russia: A Menacing Account– This book is little more than a clone of Sir John Hackett’s Third World War, only set in contemporary times. The book was written by General Sir Richard Shirreff, a former Deputy SACEUR. The parallels to Hackett and his books basically start and end here. The style of the writing and presentation diverge. Where Hackett wrote an account of WWIII from mainly a military perspective, with political viewpoints and events presented when essential to the story, War with Russia written with an emphasis on the political and special operations events with a smattering of combat tossed in. In short, the plot centers on Russia seizing the Baltic States through a plan based around hybrid warfare. The plan succeeds and Russia takes control. NATO builds up a sizeable force and prepares a plan to retake the Baltics…..and then the book ends. In the epilogue we learn that everything worked and Russia was pushed out of the Baltics. War With Russia is a literary trainwreck. Not written well enough for pure fiction and lacking the solid analytics to be considered a serious work. Avoid this book unless its on the bargain rack for $1.00.

In conclusion its apparent that World War III fiction in the 2010s was a mixed bag, representing every category from Well-rounded to Just Awful. Since this post has been so lengthy, I’m going to need to do a Part III this weekend to handle the more recent WWIII works covering a hypothetical war between the United States and China. That will be posted on Sunday.


13 Replies to “World War III Themes In Contemporary Pop Culture Part II”

  1. I loved Jericho…especially where my great state of Texas was a sovereign nation again! Red Metal was OK…just that. Nothing spectacular in my opinion; but OK.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m a huge fan of Jericho too. Would’ve loved to see a third season with the Republic of Texas thrown in the mix.

      Yeah, Red Metal was alright. As I said to someone yesterday, it just happened to be the best book of the genre at the time. Not saying much


    1. It wasn’t good. Like a WWIII version of Winds of War, but terrible. I am going to review the first couple books of the series one of these days. They’re so bad that they demand some attention

      Liked by 1 person

    2. Slater may be the most technically inaccurate military fiction writer ever (and he has some very “tough” competition there) and he has absolutely no concept of series continuity.

      Liked by 1 person

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