Book Review: World War 1990: The Weser Part I

Well, here we are. Back in the realm of William Stroock’s World War 1990 series based on a fictional Third World War that breaks out in Europe and soon engulfs the world. The latest release in the series is titles World War 1990: The Weser. For the purpose of convenience, it will be referred to simply as The Weser in this review. The books of this series were not published in chronological order. In fact, the entire series starts off around 2 ½ weeks into the conflict. NATO has stopped the Warsaw Pact offensive into West Germany and is preparing a counteroffensive. The Weser steps back to examine NATO’s defense of said river from a major Soviet attack in the days leading up to the beginning of book #1 World War 1990: Operation Arctic Storm.

Rather then write up a lengthy description of The Weser’s plot I’ve decided instead to use the description of the novel found on Amazon and will fill in some blanks moving forward.

World War 1990: The Weser-Two weeks into the Third World War, the Battle of Bremen is over, and NATO has lost. The American 2nd Armored Division is shattered. The Belgian army is all but destroyed. The British Army of the Rhine retreats south. Danish forces fall back toward Jutland. The Dutch army retreats to the frontier. Soviet armies advance toward the Rhine. NATO assembles an ad-hoc corps of American, British and French forces to counterattack in a last-ditch attempt to stop the Warsaw Pact.

Doesn’t seem terrible, right? From the outside it presents as anything but. An interesting, attention-grabbing premise and plot. My first impression was that the foundation appeared to be strong. This looked as if it was going to be an enjoyable read….until I read through the first few pages of the prologue. At that point I came to the realization that I’d been hoodwinked. 😊

The prologue sets the stage in detail. The location of the first scene is labeled Belgian I Corps. No geographic location or date. The reader meets the commander of I Belgian Corps (same as Belgian I Corps) who is now a prisoner of the East German Army after having his headquarters captured. The next scene is labeled Jutland Division, Rendsburg. We find ourselves in another command post where the commander of the Danish division is coming to the realization that the Soviets are about to invade Denmark based on reports reaching him. The rest of the prologue is a collection of similar scenes. Various NATO corps commanders take stock of the situation and then communicate with SACEUR, who wants to start preparations for a major attack to blunt the coming Soviet push to the Weser. Two points become clear midway through the prologue; The author enjoys callsigns and has an even greater obsession with radio communications. Coming in a close third is Stroock’s desire to call every headquarters a TAC CP. Not an incorrect term, yet after the first twelve pages of usage it grows tedious.

The use of radio callsigns for regiment, division and corps commanders became irritating rather fast as well. General Cal Waller was Texas-6. A French corps commander’s radio callsign was Tricolour-6.  The British 4th Armoured Division’s commander was Kenya-6. You get the idea. The radio conversations between these commanders and SACEUR contained essentially the same dialogue. This would turn out to be a common theme throughout the rest of the book. I get why Stroock included the use of comms between unit commanders. He wanted to add a splash of realism to the narrative. Unfortunately, after reading practically the same conversation between multiple commanders and subordinates for 100 pages or so, I started to bypass every bit of radio dialogue I came across.

The other major thorn I encountered in the prologue section were a handful of significant mistakes concerning historic details of the period. Specifically having to do with US Army commanders and corps dispositions in the CENTAG region. Stroock identified VII Corps as the US corps headquartered in Frankfurt, being under the command of General Fred Franks and containing the 8th Infantry Division and 3rd Armored Division. Shortly thereafter, the author identified General Cal Waller as being the commander of the 8th Infantry Division until SACEUR tagged him for a higher command.  

Back in 1990 VII Corps was headquarters in Stuttgart down in the southern FRG. V Corps had its peacetime HQ in Frankfurt. Further, 8th ID and 3rd AD were the major combat elements of this corps. Lieutenant General George Joulwan was the commander in 1990, not General Franks. As for Cal Waller, his tour as 8th ID commander ended in 1989. By this point in 1990 he was at CENTCOM in Tampa.

Pointing out these mistakes might seem like nitpicking. I assure you that is not the case. It is important for authors to get the facts straight when they are producing a work which takes place in a specific time period. More to the point, when it comes to World War III fiction or techno-thrillers in general, readers expect authors to put in the research and get the details correct. Stroock did not do this here, for whatever reason.

So, this will conclude Part I of the review. I slept off my annoyance last night and this morning realized there’s no reason to slam a fellow author’s work. We’re in the same genre and if I can help out his efforts, that will make me happy. The conclusion of the review will be up tomorrow night or Saturday. Then we’ll wrap up the Backfire Death on Sunday or Monday. Have a good rest of the day, folks! –Mike  aka Amish-6 😊

10 Replies to “Book Review: World War 1990: The Weser Part I”

  1. The use of call signs and radio conversations is downright clever: A bit of compelling realism for the reader. Perhaps a bit of editing and trimming could turn a minus into a big plus. A “Less is More” kind of thing. Reminds me of fantasy authors that insert in-universe song lyrics in their books. A little is great, too much gets tedious though.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks! Like I’ve said, if you have Kindle Unlimited, check it out. Otherwise, hold off for now. On the bright side, his writing is improving.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. If I’d stayed in the Army after my brief and very uninspiring time in college ROTC (wait, you mean we have to march with all of this heavy gear?), I’d like to think I’d be answering radio calls today as “Jackwagon-6, Actual”….

    Liked by 1 person

  3. The “Whatever Six” radio call sign thing largely died after Nam. Even on the secured radio nets, and almost all US radio nets were encrypted, everybody in the US Army heavy forces used the daily changing call signs in the Communications Electronic Operating instructions (CEOI), which usually changed at some random time between midnight and 0200. While “Six” was still embedded in the organizational culture, in that the Commander’s bumper number was usually “HQ6” or something like that, even that was covered with duct tape in the field. OPSEC and COMSEC was deeply ingrained.

    It was always kind of a pet peeves of mine when reading this stuff, because nobody in the US heavy forces used the archaic call signs. Maybe the Light and Airborne guys did, and maybe the other NATO countries did, but it just wasn’t accepted or done in the US Mech or Armored units.

    For that matter, you probably would never hear a Brigade, Division or Corps Commander on a radio net. They had people for that, radio transmissions were never supposed to go more than a few seconds (again that OPSEC/COMSEC culture) or they talked using MSE (a kind of military cell phone type net, also encrypted). Commanders staying off the radio was generally considered a good idea to keep enemy REC units from finding them and killing them.

    Liked by 2 people

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