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.