RogerBW's Blog

Trinity's Child, William Prochnau 15 June 2014

The USSR launches a limited nuclear strike against the USA. Things get worse.

This is not a technical book. It has a thin scrim of research over what the author clearly regards as psychological realism, but which merely serves to make every character thoroughly unsympathetic. One feels that if Prochnau had been writing about the Peace Corps or some charity for giving kittens to photogenic orphans there'd have been just as much of a bad taste left in the mouth.

The thesis, apart from "nuclear wars are a bad thing" (not perhaps the most contentious of ideas, though it's presented as such here), is that pushing the Soviet system economically would provoke them into launching a nuclear attack rather than allowing themselves to fall apart.

Oh, and that nuclear weaponry uniquely among human endeavours turns anyone who has the slightest connection with it (i.e. everybody in the book) into a messed-up headcase. Yeah, Prochnau's a journalist all right.

The two major narrative threads deal with the surviving command structure (with some question as to just who is in command) and the crew of a B-52, the only one to get away from its base before the missiles hit, en route to Russia. The latter is fractionally more interesting, and therefore comes to an end well before the book does.

The book was the basis for the TV movie By Dawn's Early Light, which is better for several reasons: it's shorter, it's less pretentious, and it includes Rebecca de Mornay.

Long book, short review: don't bother.

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  1. Posted by John Dallman at 06:21pm on 16 June 2014

    I was curious about the publication date, which turns out to be 1985 - so probably written in 83-84, when some members of Reagan's cabinet were saying that nuclear wars weren't so bad, and could be worthwhile to get rid of the Red Menace. The idea of collapsing the USSR through the cost of armaments was claimed to have been the plan all along by Reagan's fans, but I was never entirely convinced by those claims. A book that made more sense in context, I think, but is now less than relevant.

  2. Posted by RogerBW at 06:31pm on 16 June 2014

    Certainly I don't remember any of them saying "if we just keep this up for a few more years, the USSR will collapse" until after it had happened.

    I've read The Riddle of the Sands, the politics of which must surely be considered even more obsolete; but it's nonetheless a highly enjoyable book even now. So I don't think it's only irrelevance which condemns this one.

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