It’s finally happened and it’s a little (but not too) surprising that I’ve finally reviewed two books with the same title on Fuldapocalypse.
I’ve been, partially for one of my million plot ideas and partially just for fun, taking a look at the Cold War inter-Korean military balance from various old documents. So the picture forming is…
A while ago, my specific cheap thriller itch was military sci-fi. Now, more recently, it seems to be “invasion novels” (Red Dawn, Tomorrow When The War Began, etc…). They’re not crowding out everything else, but still, I’m reading more of them than I used to. Don’t ask me why.
The BMT-72 and BTMP-84 are concoctions of the Morozov design bureau in Kharkiv, Ukraine, representing a tank-IFV, that can carry, besides three crew and a 125mm gun, five soldiers. The BMPT-84 at least had a rear door and raised rear compartment, while the BMT-72 plopped in a troop compartment between the turret and the engine with roof hatches (it looks as ergonomic as it sounds).
I’ve seen it be widely criticized, and understandably so. It takes two vehicles with contradictory roles and mushes them together. However, there’s a part of me that thinks it could be somewhat salvagable as a (western-style) cavalry vehicle, with the dismounts acting as something other than line infantry, something other than just “ok, rather than dismounting from the BMP/BTR behind the tank, they dismount from the tank itself”.
Of course, a separate vehicle holding the cavalry scouts that puts the eggs in more than one basket is still probably the better option, but it’s the least bad way I could think of such an unconventional tank to be used.
One of my weird current fascinations is the “Truck-APC”, for lack of a better word. This is an armored personnel carrier built on the platform of an existing truck. One of the first widespread truck-APCs was the BTR-152.
Since that ZiS-151 with armor rolled across Red Square, there have been many, many, many vehicles of that nature. It’s undoubtedly easier for smaller and/or lower budget firms to make something where much of the “heavy lifting” has already been done by someone else than a clean-sheet design. I’d have to say one of the more unusual (or my favorite) truck-APCs is the kind where the front part is just an uparmored pickup truck, but an “APC-like” troop compartment is placed in the bed.
A reason I think the truck-APC has come to prominence in my mind is the kind of books I read. The truck-APC is more suitable for security forces than it is for higher-end armies squaring off against IFVs. Guess what the small-unit action-adventure novel protagonist is more likely to face?
In my latest Sea Lion Press column, I finally have the opportunity to talk about one of my favorite technothriller pet peeves-“Plotnukes”.
Plotnukes are a kind of “I know it when I see it” term for the use of nuclear weapons in a highly contrived way. The Birmingham-for-Minsk “trade” in Hackett’s The Third World War and similar events in imitators is what I consider the poster child of such a thing.
One serious proposal for a standing “UN Legion” got me thinking. How would it compare to its most likely [conventional] opponent? The UN Legion (highly unlikely to be deployed in its entirety) would compare on the high-end to a Light OPFOR (conceived around the same time) mechanized force.
Kenneth Pollack’s Armies of Sand, and its thesis predecessor, “The Influence of Arab Culture on Arab Military Effectiveness”, is fascinating not just for its core claim, but also in how, culture aside, politicization and underdevelopment worked in theory and practice.
Pollack listed three main types of excessive politicization for militaries.
The three can easily blend together. Praetorianism can be followed by commissarism as the winner of a power struggle consolidates, and commissarism and palace-guardism can be tied as the regime and country blur.
Palace-Guardism appears to be the least worst of the options, because in many cases an internal threat is far more urgent and far more credible than an external one, and because the common separate palace-guard forces (think the Republican Guard) are frequently benchmarked against the regular army and thus serve as the strongest conventional force.
Pollack’s description, which he backs up with evidence and case studies from several heavily politicized armies, is that politicization frequently leads to wildly uneven performance and affects the politically vulnerably upper ranks far more than it hits the lower, more obscure, or safe lower ones. Sometimes it can be downplayed, particularly in commissarist systems, if the regime lucks into a few high-ranking officers who are both militarily capable and politically friendly. And it often doesn’t need that many (For instance, a sample Light OPFOR Expeditionary Army needs only one army and three to five division commanders)
It’s an interesting study, as overly politicized armies will exist as long as politics and armies do, and it shows both the similarities and differences in every incarnation of it.
So, every book on my big backlog I’ve read or at least sampled and then put aside to read later. Some of them made it to Fuldapocalypse or are in the review ‘stack’, others did not and will not.
Perhaps the most famous entry is Heinlein’s original Starship Troopers. The most charitable things I can say about it are that it probably aged poorly and that I understand how it can scratch a “he gets it” itch for veterans because of its realistic depiction of boot camp drudgery. Otherwise, I didn’t like it. It has this overly “bouncy” and somewhat rambling writing style that I found to knock down both the boot-camp-coming-of-age main plot and the modest amount of actual action.
My military sci-fi itch is pretty much subsided-of the four remaining books, three were military sci-fi. I did find Jonathan Brazee’s works good for my current ‘cheap thriller’ tastes and will be checking out more of them, but I think it best to put the remaining “guy in armored space suit” books on the back burner until the genre fatigue wears off. Those made up the bulk of my holiday purchases, so returning to the delightfully technothrillery Thunder of Erebus was a good ‘grand finale’.
Going forward, I have two general priorities. One is slightly more highbrow works of fiction-I love cheap thrillers, but think going a little higher would be helpful. I definitely plan on reading and reviewing the classic Forever War, for one example. The other priority is tanks, because while some of the books had tanks in them, none were really in a starring role. So I’m planning on reading more tank books (and yes, that includes sci-fi tank books).
This whole experience was fun, and I hope to encounter more literary gems.
So, I’ve been having a military sci-fi craving, with most of the books I’ve recently started being those. Maybe it’s just a fad of mine. Maybe it’s just that a lot of them fall into the niche of being both cheap thrillers and involving something different than the usual ones, so I can have my cake and eat it too.
I’m not thinking any worse of the “normal” cheap thrillers, and I’m still reading lots of them, but it never hurts to try these new ones. I’ve had times when I like military sci-fi before, and this is another, I suppose.