|Brassey's Defence Publishers, 1987, £14.95|
Another Dave Langford review.
Futurologists tend to describe posthistoric years in suspiciously sweeping terms: "Africa said", "the West decided". SF's traditional utopias preferred to give detailed, crashingly tedious descriptions of Earth in 2040. General Sir William Jackson avoids only the first pitfall. His protracted, utopian, non-nuclear World War III is blurred with numbing minutiae: a crowded novel without characters, an interminable history lesson narrated by his granddaughter.
Supposedly it's a credible scenario validating Jackson's proposal (in Withdrawal from Empire) that "Britain should avoid over-emphasis on Continental strategy and maintain balanced forces for use anywhere in the world." After ingeniously discovering that WW3 needn't be fought in Europe, Jackson appears to lose track of this goal... though an Anglo-Japanese HOTOL supersedes the space shuttle, fuelled by Mrs Thatcher's economic revolution (which presumably only seems to involve savage cuts to scientific research).
Jackson identifies four "horsemen of the Apocalypse": black nationalism, Islamic fundamentalism, Latin-American unrest and Japanese inscrutability, all factors in the long squabble leading to a somewhat ad-hoc World Parliament (2035). He believes so wholeheartedly in deterrence that nuclear retaliation stays deterred even when Sino-Japanese forces "reclaim" the eastern USSR using "supra-technology" missiles which pack the power of nukes without actually being nuclear. Ditto after a demonstration first strike on US/USSR launch sites with (desperately unconvincing) energy weapons. Despite these dubious concessions to technological change, the actual battles have a 1940s armoured-column feel.
Clunky, overweight sentences abound, most disastrously when Jackson tries to write like a woman: "I was already wedded to the Army and, like a nun, determined to pursue my chosen calling, though I knew in my heart of hearts that I might succumb to the temptations of marriage...."
This turgid work might interest war-gaming fans (lots of maps with red arrows!) or some writer aspiring to become, like the author, a Cabinet Office Military Historian.
|First published in Sanity, 1987 (I think -- I've lost my copy).
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