No time for Prince: The Texas-Israeli War: 1999.
Oh man. Here we go. It looks like Schlock Value beat me to reviewing this one, but what can you do. Schlock Value is a rad-ass blog and you should read it.
As I’ve mentioned before, I have a weakness for bookstores. In particular, I’ve a weakness for used bookstores- the more cramped and funny-smelling, the better. There’s something oddly enticing about digging up forgotten paperbacks of years past. If you’ve got a sharp eye and a working knowledge of the genre (yes I am pretentious and use terms like “the genre,”) sometimes you can dig up some hidden gems.
Other times, uh, you get this.
Given this blog’s called “Dial H for Houston,” I knew I had to read this as soon as I saw it. Considering it was all of two bucks (and technically less than that, given used book trade credit), I went ahead and picked it up. And I finally got around to reading it. And…well, it was a thing.
One of the little quirks of science fiction is, well, dated science fiction. It’s always kind of entertaining to read past predictions of the future, and compare them to how things actually played out. Sometimes this can be disconcertingly accurate, but in the majority of cases this just comes off as kind of hilarious. Though in turn, a lot of sci-fi written in our current day will no doubt be laughed at in a few decades for failing to predict the rise of our cyber-ape overlords or whatever. Even still, I dare say there are certain scenarios that are a little more…likely than others. I’ll let you weigh in on how plausible this one is.
See, in 1992, Irish separatists got backing from China and South Africa (for…reasons), at which point some dude managed to spike the London reservoir with psychoactive drugs. This led to the UK’s Prime Minister going nuts, at which point he went to Parliament and said “LET’S NUKE EVERYONE!” and half of Parliament said “RIGHT O GUVNAH” and started World War III. As you do. (This is where I started to find things implausible, because everyone knows The Queen is the one sitting on The Button. Literally. I’m pretty sure it’s built into the throne or something).
So things go to shit, and some ninety(!) percent of the world’s population dies. Kay. But, somehow, Israel remains untouched. To the point where they can even send mercenaries (with laser tanks!) to the other side of the planet to fight against Texas secessionists.
For the record, Texas deciding to be its own country is pretty much the most accurate prediction this book makes. There are people in this state who are just waiting for an excuse, I tell you. Waiting. Mostly in Dallas.
And on top of that, there’s more! See, fast forward a few years to 1998, at which point the President of the USA goes on a visit to Oklahoma City (which, for the geographically challenged, is rather close to Texas)…whereupon the President is kidnapped by Texas Rangers. Which leads me to wonder why the President would visit OKC in the first place, but…well, this isn’t the kind of book that stands up to much scrutiny.
Right then. Now that we’ve gotten the background established, let’s get to the plot proper! Which, to paraphrase one of the greatest 8 bit stories ever recorded, is as follows:
“THE PRESIDENT HAS BEEN KIDNAPPED BY COWBOYS. ARE YOU A BAD ENOUGH JEW TO RESCUE THE PRESIDENT?”
Seriously, that’s it. The book centers around a column of Israeli mercenaries (who, I should again note, have managed to ship and supply a bunch of laser tanks across the Atlantic ocean, despite nine tenths of the world’s population getting killed off a few years earlier). They help in the taking of Dallas (which, in this novel, has an enormous canal that stretches all the way to Galveston Bay), where they sink a battleship (see the thing about the canal). After that, they’re recruited to go rescue the President from where he’s being held in a prison somewhere in The Valley. After a little bit of undercover mission stuff, they blow up a lot of tanks and airplanes, and rescue said president. Guess they were really Bad Enough. The End.
So yeah. There are books that provide eerie pictures of the future…and then there are books like this one. There was a huge disconnect between the setting as told to us in the background, and how it played out. Honestly, a lot of it reads like Saunders and Waldrop just pulling stuff out of their respective asses because they think it sounds cool.
Also on the ‘sounds cool’ is the hardware that the characters are using- the Israeli mercenaries start off in laser-equipped Centurion tanks- but to go undercover, they wind up driving a bunch of WWII-era tanks, which are up and operational, for…reasons? I guess? Really, the more I think about it, the more I think this book was based on Saunders and Waldrop playing a homebrewed wargame of some kind. “So, uh, all I have painted are these WWII tanks…but…they could THEORETICALLY fight your Centurions, right?”
The sad thing is, this book doesn’t even roll with the gonzo post apocalyptic premise it lays out. There’s a few mention of giant cockroaches in the last third of the book, but there’s a distinct lack of hockey pads and mohawks and speedo-wearing warlords. And on top of that, the actual explodey action isn’t all that exciting. I’m kinda glad this book was pretty thin, as sitting down to read it was becoming a bit of a chore. You’ll notice I haven’t mentioned any characters specifically…mostly because they’re all archetypes: the square jawed commander, the girl, the wheeling and dealing quartermaster, the black guy, etc.
If nothing else, the book’s cheesy title and cover was enough to bring me in… and now I’m reviewing it for you guys. But honestly, you’re not missing much in passing this one up.