It's been 25 years since I first read Red Storm Rising, an experience that hooked me on the writing and battle scenarios of Tom Clancy, an insurance agent from Baltimore. Recently, upon reading it for the second time, I was impressed at how well the story held up despite the end of the Cold War between NATO and Warsaw Pact countries.
From the moment terrorists destroy a Soviet oil refinery in Russia, to an uneasy cease fire by the battle-weary antagonists, Red Storm Rising is guaranteed to hold the reader in its vise-like grip.
"Red Storm" is the Soviets' code name for a two-three week mechanized ground attack using conventional weapons against West Germany and the "low countries" of Belgium, Netherlands and Luxembourg (aka Benelux) along Europe's northwestern coast.
Supplies of oil are desperately needed, not only for defense, but also to avoid a collapse of the Soviet Union economy. If they can't produce their own oil, then they must, they HAVE TO, grab it from someone else. So why not the Persian Gulf? It's close. And the military can be ready in four months. Of course, NATO and the U.S. must be dealt with, but they have a plan. Unfortunately, they underestimate the West's resolve and capabilities.
The Soviets set Germany up for a diversionary fall, and the world intelligence community tries to make sense of it all. The United States goes to Defcon 2; American subs intensify their snooping around, and surface warships begin maneuvering into battle position.
The war starts simply enough – an exploding grenade. Then the NATO preemptive attack escalates, the Soviets' expectations that the U.S. would stay out of it now just a shattered pipe dream. Satellites tangle with each other, ships and subs make the North Atlantic boil with their guns, missiles and torpedoes. The air is filled with flying ordnance, and the ground war in Germany spreads as armies parry and clash.
In Iceland, where a strategic series of air bases are overrun by Soviets, four men are the sole communications link to this vital position needed to control the North Atlantic. Reinforcements eventually arrive, and that can only mean one thing. The Americans will be invading Iceland, intent on taking it back.
Talk of using chemical and tactical nuclear weapons, at first eschewed and cast aside, are once again on the Soviets' agenda. The war is going badly for the Reds and desperate times call for desperate measures. You think American politics are rough? Soviet politics were downright deadly.
This isn't just a simple slam-bam-we're-at-war-ma'am story. It's a geek's delight, it's a historian's delight, and it's a reader's delight. Strategy was never so easy to follow, intentions were never so clearly intimated, and action was never so stirringly portrayed, as in Red Storm Rising.
Red Storm Rising is Tom Clancy's second novel, published two years after his first hit, The Hunt for Red October, and quickly became a classic in the techno-thriller genre.
Berkeley Publishing, 1987 Paperback ($8.99)