A thriller that dramatizes what might have happened if old hostility between NATO and Warsaw Pact nations had spiraled into violence.
What if the Cold War suddenly ran red hot? That’s the tantalizing premise of Burke’s debut novel, which unfurls the grim historical possibilities. Michael Patrick Fitzmaurice is a major in the U.S. Army Reserve and a former full-time soldier following in the footsteps of his father, who saw combat in Vietnam. As Russia and its Warsaw Pact allies question the resolve and strength of NATO and see an opportunity in its perceived weakness, Fitzmaurice presciently sees the handwriting on the wall early on. Soviet military forces continue to gather near the German border as scattered engagements between troops crescendo into something grander. Fitzmaurice, much to the consternation of his anxious wife, Elizabeth, is called to active duty and sent to Europe for what seems like an inevitable war. The issue of the obligations of reservists, or “weekend warriors,” is a recurrent theme in this book; for example, Elizabeth ruefully wonders why so much responsibility is being placed on her husband, who is now in harm’s way: “Why does a reservist have to be the one to show other soldiers how to blow up tanks with firebombs?” The author, a former reservist, does an admirable job of depicting the honor and courage of such part-time soldiers, whose commitment is often as steadfast as their full-time counterparts’. Also, his portrayals of combat violence are stunning and chilling by turns. That said, the deluge of insider military initialisms will likely confuse, frustrate, and eventually overwhelm nonmilitary readers, though they do serve as a testament to the depth of Burke’s knowledge of martial life. He includes a glossary of terms at the end of the book—an implicit admission of their problematic frequency. The action is still electric, though, and the book’s vision of how quickly geopolitical instability might have devolved into global conflict is uneasily stirring. Overall, this is a work of both literary and historical appeal and an endearing paean to the soldier’s virtue.
A well-researched, affecting account of a world lost in war.