Monday, June 18, 2012

The Texas-Israeli War: 1999 - a review

Published in 1974, this book posits a post-apocalyptic world that seems more realistic than most. Once a speculative future vision, it is now an interesting alternate history.

Just over 200 pages, the book manages to cram in a lot of character development, develops believable relationships between characters, and paints a vivid picture of the setting.

Map of Texas in a world-that-wasn't, circa 1999
The premise is that seven years before the time of the story, the UK, its water supply tainted by LSD, nukes Ireland and China, and China responds. Eventually all the world powers are dragged into the conflict, with the US and USSR on the same side, surprisingly enough. By the time of the beginning of the story, the world has lost something like 90% of its population due to nuclear, chemical, and biological warfare. Israel managed to avoid destruction, and is one of the only intact nations on Earth, and even suffers from overpopulation. Israeli mercenaries are found worldwide. In this book, an Israeli mercenary tank unit works for the US government in its war against a Texas that has seceded. Texas has captured the US president from a meeting in Oklahoma, and may or may not be ready to hand him over to the Chinese, who are embroiled in a war against the US in Alaska.

This book isn't lighthearted, but there is definitely an undercurrent of hope running through it. Still, there are downbeat elements; I was struck by the account of a joint US/Russian Mars mission. WWIII broke out while the mission was underway, and the crew lost contact with Earth. They continued the mission, landed on Mars - the first humans to do so - and returned to find the Earth embroiled in the aftermath of Armageddon. The somber account of their experiences is moving and succinctly told, adding to the atmosphere evoked by the book.

The cover image is misleading, by the way. There is no attack as depicted, though there is an encounter with Native Americans that gives an interesting glimpse into how their various cultures have been impacted by the global war and collapse.

This is a remarkable book. For how slender it is, it contains a lot of content. The setting is rich with possibility, and given the number of alternate history books out now, it could have served for a whole series of books. As it is, this book is an example of just how good science fiction of the 1970s could be.

1 comment:

  1. One of my all time favorite books. I bought (new) back in high school and still keep the battered age faded paperback in my book collection for periodic revisits. It remains a favorite even now.