Defcon One

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

Perestroika and glasnost are simply a memory as this new novel opens; the Cold War between the United States and the Soviet Union is back with a vengeance. In fact, although the United States is unaware of it, the Cold War is soon to be replaced with the hottest of conflicts. A faction within the Soviet government is convinced that the time has come to bury their capitalist opponents beneath nuclear rubble. With the Soviet economy in shambles, the society in chaos, and faced with at least a partial deployment of a “star wars” system by the United States, the new General Secretary and his allies within the Politburo intend to launch a preemptive nuclear strike.

The plan is to initiate a series of carefully contrived incidents to force the two nations to the apparent brink of war, then withdraw. A surprise attack is planned to follow, just when the Americans have been lulled into a false sense of relief. Unfortunately for the Soviets, the CIA has managed to plant a mole on the Kremlin staff, and he is aware of their intentions.

Thus, as incident follows incident, with the United States government trying desperately to find a way to defuse the situation and avoid war, two American agents race desperately across the Soviet Union to warn their unsuspecting nation that Armageddon is imminent. The two agents are successful, but their information simply compounds the problem, for, once the president of the United States is made aware of the Soviet plan, he is compelled to order an American preemptive attack in order to diminish the effectiveness of the Russian strike.

Generally speaking, rational human beings prefer to believe that war is the result of unfortunate accidents which could be avoided if only nations took the time to do so. Unfortunately, the history of the human community is replete with examples of wars which were begun by individuals in full command of their faculties. In short, circumstances occasionally occur which allow nations to convince themselves that war is the only rational alternative to an existing situation. DEFCON ONE is a plausible narrative of just such a state of affairs--so much so, in fact, that even the most jaded reader will be turning the pages as rapidly as possible to determine the nature of the denouement which Weber has devised.