Book Review: Ian Slater’s WWIII

I have been wanting to review Ian Slater’s WWIII series for some time now. To be fair, I have only completely read five of the eleven titles that make up the series. Out of those five, only the first three can be properly referred to as a series. After the third installment;  WWIII: World In Flames, the books become separate entities joined together by a common theme and loosely-connected characters. The first three books are the meat and potatoes of the series, so to speak, and I see no need to review any titles beyond the third. Today marks the start of a journey back into Ian Slater’s WWIII realm, beginning with the book that kicked everything off back in 1990.

At first glance, WWIII appears to be your standard late Cold War era technothriller. War breaks out between North Korea and its neighbor to the south and escalates into a world war that brings NATO and the Warsaw Pact to blows. Appearances can be deceiving though. What looked to be a technothriller novel turned out to be a hybrid soap opera/action genre story. Upon closer examination, WWIII actually seems to be an attempt by Slater to clone Herman Wouk’s Winds of War and put it into a World War III setting.

Unfortunately for the reader, any pleasure that is squeezed out of this lemon of a novel is swiftly overrun by the wild technical inaccuracies that appear very early in and somehow keep growing worse as the novel continues. Slater apparently was a veteran of the Australian Navy and later worked for the Australian Joint Intelligence Bureau. So there’s no excuse for his lack of knowledge on military topics. Judging by the glaring technical mistakes, I assume Slater worked as a custodian for Aussie Intelligence. As an already-established writer by the time WWIII was released, there’s absolutely no excuse for Slater’s inability to move the story along in a timely fashion. But this last point is moot in the face of the tsunami of technical inaccuracies. I mean honestly, technothriller readers crave accurate depictions of military tactics, weapons and battles. As for The Spectator, a  conservative British weekly magazine, fawning over WWIII in its book review and calling it “Superior to Tom Clancy genre, with characters that came alive…and the military aspect far more realistic, ” it simply blows my mind.

Anyhow, back to the inaccuracies and outright lies in Slater’s book. They begin on Page 16 during a dogfight scene between USAF F-16s and East German Su-15 Flagons over West Germany. Very remarkable considering East Germany never flew the Flagon, and the US fighters were the two-seat F-16B trainers with RIOs (Radar Intercept Officers) in the backseats. Yes, Slater called them RIOs, which is what the US Navy called F-14 backseaters back in the Tomcat era. To make matters worse, the dogfight dialogue is remarkably similar to that heard in the real world 1989 clash between US Navy F-14s and Libyan fighters over the Gulf of Sidra. Below is a snippet from the F-16-Flagon dogfight scene in Slater’s book.

“Master arm on,” came his RIO’s confirmation. “Am centering the T. Bogeys jinked fourteen miles. Centering dot. Fox One. Fox One.” The twelve-foot-long Sparrow missile was off, streaking at over two thousand miles per hour, seen on the early warning Hawkeye’s radar.

Slater, Ian. WW III (p. 17)  Kindle Edition

There were reams of other examples of inaccurate details or purely lazy writing. Some of the more memorable highlights are worth mentioning though. Such as the Seawolf II class SSN/SSBN USS Roosevelt, an attack submarine conveniently fitted with six Trident II missile tubes. Oh and the fact that USAF F-111A Ravens are based at RAF Upper Heyford and F-15 Sea Eagles in Iceland. An F-14 pilot in a US Navy squadron holds the rank of Major.

It’s safe to say that this book is a mess. It might not be the worst World War III technothriller ever written, but it’s in the top five. Unfortunately, two of the other three spots are also held by Ian Slater works. I first read WWIII back in 1993 at the age of 15. Suffice to say, the book has aged about as well as a tray of uncooked chicken sweltering in the desert heat for a week. I hate to criticize a fellow author on work that doesn’t meet my standards, but in this case I’ll make an exception. Unless you’re looking for an exceedingly terrible technothriller, avoid WWIII like the plague. The series doesn’t get better. In fact, it becomes worse in most respects, but I’ll discuss that in later reviews.

Final verdict for WWIII is 1 Mushroom Cloud. If it were a 20 megaton ICBM aimed at Leningrad, the sonofabitch would hit Nairobi and fizzle.


26 Replies to “Book Review: Ian Slater’s WWIII”

  1. “the book has aged about as well as a tray of uncooked chicken sweltering in the desert heat for a week.”

    ….simply one of the best lines you’ve ever written! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I’ve been looking forward to this review ever since you announced it and it did not disappoint.

    I should also note that Slater has (and somehow got even worse) essentially no concept of “between books continuity”, which makes reading the later entries in a series by him extra-interesting.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m glad it was worth the wait! 🙂

      I want to explore some of his other writings. Out of curiosity more than anything else. Any suggestions?


  3. I never realized that the story kept going as long as you pointed out. The first one was so bad, I gave up on it. I have yet to read anything as engaging on the macro scale as Red Storm Rising or the microscale as Team Yankee. If only Ralph Peters was capable of writing a ‘happy’ ending.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Might have something comparable for you on the macro scale in January, depending on the supply chain issues. 🙂
      I’m with you. Totally understand why Peters wrote the ending he did, but he could’ve compromised a bit.


      1. I don’t just mean Red Army. He does the same kind of depressing, downer ending in “War in 2020” and “The War After Armageddon. ” I guess he at least allows the “Protagonist ” to live in Red Army..

        Liked by 1 person

        1. You’re right. “The War in 2020” was an overall depressing book from start to finish. “Armageddon” was kind of the same. Made me wonder if Peters was advocating atheism or warning about the dangers of a marriage between religion and politics. Or both


  4. Thanks for reminding me not to buy Ian Slater’s pile of radioactive goo, and for giving us hope for January,

    If this was uncooked chicken left in the desert sun for a week, I wonder what would be uncooked chicken left in a tropical rainforest for a week.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. My pleasure 🙂

      Ugh, I don’t even want to begin to imagine. Back in college I put a tray of uncooked chicken underneath a neighbor’s deck one weekend. It didn’t take long to go rancid.


  5. Not to mention that in ’90, not all the F-16s could even launch a Sparrow. The first Block 25 F-16s aren’t operational until October of ’88 and the Air Guard ADF variants don’t start until February ’89

    Liked by 1 person

  6. The worst technothriller I’ve ever read was Task Force, which wasn’t set in WWIII but rather a cartel in Mexico acquires dozens of high-end ex-Soviet fighter jets (this was published in ’92 or so) and pilots to fly them, and starts defending cartel interests by shooting down and bombing US military planes and installations across the southwest.

    How this does not trigger a full-scale invasion of Mexico by the United States is beyond me, but it doesn’t.

    The hero of the story is a USN aggressor squad pilot who flies an F16 (that’s an actual thing, the USN flew a squadron of F16s to better simulate the maneuverability and sophistication of 4th generation Soviet-era jets) and wins by shooting down the Russian mercenary main bad guy by following him through a hammerhead maneuver, which is fucking stupid. The Young Pioneers who used to post on rec.aviation.military back in the day would reee about how the Cobra or Hammerhead stall maneuver was one, something only a MiG29 or SU27 could do, and two, it would automagically win any dogfight for the pilot in the cockpit of those flying Kia Sofias. What it will do, if your opponent is observant, is stop your jet midair and make you a big, fat, immobile target ready for a tasty Sidewinder sandwich with a cool refreshing burst of PGU 20mm to drink.

    Every other aspect of the book was equally bad: characterization, interactions, the gratuitous snuff scene (yes). One curious note: for some reason the editor of the novel decided to allow the author’s…unconventional…usage of CONSTANT CAPITALIZATION throughout the ENTIRE BOOK in CHARACTER DIALOG to substitute for GRAMMATICAL EMPHASIS!

    But I digress: Task Force was so bad, it was one of the two books I have ever owned that rather than at least giving it to goodwill or trading it at the book store, I threw in the garbage. I didn’t want anyone else to have to read it.

    This WWIII series somehow sounds just as bad.

    Liked by 2 people

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: