I got Red Storm Rising. How could I not get it? I’ve played Command, so why not get the book that inspired so many wargames? Why not read the traditional genre classic that simulated the battles in the Harpoon boardgame?

So I got the book and read it. And it was-mediocre. Not bad, in the sense of the horribly bad books I’ve read far too many times. But it just didn’t have the sense of “wow, this is a giant classic”. I think there are two main reasons for this.

The first is that the prose just wasn’t the best. The hopping-around viewpoints to show every front of World War III took away from a sense of continued immediacy, and even without that, the writing wasn’t the most powerful. Although a far different period, HMS Ulysses captured northern-latitude naval combat in a much more intense and well-written way. In addition to that, the book stumbled as well by giving an inevitably contrived explanation for starting the war (and a horribly composed Politburo scene), rather than just saying “The war started, now let’s fight it”, and going past it to the real draw.

The second was not the fault of the book itself. Rather, I think it has to deal with the context I read it in. A lot of things in it that were novel at the time, like Tomahawks and (inaccurately speculated) stealth fighters hitting key targets just don’t seem very awe-inspiring to a post-Gulf War reader who sees them as standard procedure.

Then there’s that I’ve seen so many imitators that the original doesn’t seem so original. To someone who’s seen many Backfire regiment vs. carrier group scenarios, I especially don’t have an interested reaction to watching one in a book. Also unsurprising is the Soviet invasion of Iceland-a pipe dream out of place for a defensive fleet, which only works in the book itself as a jury-rigged surprise attack. Yet after that book, Iceland landings are ubiquitous in WWIII fiction, as if standard Northern Fleet procedure was to attack it that way.
While not a totally bad book, through some things that are its fault and some things that aren’t, I just didn’t find Red Storm Rising the most engaging.

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