Saturday, October 1, 2011

War Day

Went to the library today and perused the dusty shelves.  In doing so, I came across a book by Whitely Strieber that I had not previously encountered.  
I knew that he had written horror novels like The Hunger and The Wolfen and I'm certainly acquainted with his non-fiction works like Communion but War Day seems a bit of a departure for him.  This novel is about characters traveling across America in the aftermath of a limited nuclear strike, a 36-minute exchange of missiles between the U.S. and the Soviet Union that ceased only after communication systems shut down.  This was a rather novel notion in 1984, War Day's year of publication.  At that point we all had the doomsday mindset of a full-tilt nuclear release that would leave the world a wasteland.  But as the book demonstrates, a "limited exchange" is no picnic, either as "New York, Washington D.C., San Antonio, and parts of the Central and Western states are gone," or so the inside flap reads.  That sort of unduly elevates the status of San Antonio in my opinion but whatever.

The U.S. of War Day is a land beset with plague, famine, radiation sickness, and tribal warfare.  EMP waves from the nuclear detonations have left the many conveniences that we rely on, e.g. cars and computers, utterly useless.  Through all of this, two writers set out on foot to describe the America that they see emerging from all of this.  It is that semi-documentary, journalistic writing style interwoven with government documents that attracts me to this book and I have now placed it upon my towering "to-read" list.  The few pages I have read accurately describe the aftermath of nuclear warfare  in a detached way and without sentimental pessimism, a technique that seems to render the text all the more creepy.

A little too creepy if you ask me.  Probably because it's just a little too realistic.  People today live their lives under the mistaken impression that such a nuclear holocaust could never happen.  The Soviet Union no longer exists and the Cold War is a relic of the distant past.  That may be, however many of the nuclear warheads that were around during the Cold War are still around today.  Russian nuclear capability is pretty much the same as it was back in the day and I haven't even begun to factor in China or terrorists.  The type of "limited exchange" scenario that is described in War Day is quite possible...which I'm certain will make for cheery reading.

You can find War Day at Amazon.

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  1. It was an interesting time. There was a rash of those books at that time, and though the notion may seem interesting now, it was very much a pat idea then. It wasn't Alas Babylon, but there were a few moments in the book that sit in my head.

  2. Thanks for the comment, Ross.
    I'll have more to say about the book once I've actually read it. And you're right: 1984 seemed to be the prime time for post-nuke fiction.


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