Fortunes of War

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

The leadership of the Russian government passes into the hands of a megalomaniac bent on replicating the dictatorship of Joseph Stalin. Meanwhile, the Japanese are again subject to a government bent on imperial conquest. Yet whereas once Japan sought to extend its influence into China, Stephen Coonts’ more contemporary version looks to Siberia as a means of economic salvation in FORTUNES OF WAR.

War is not only inevitable, but suits the larger needs of the leadership of both countries. Masatake Okada, the prime minister of Japan, believes that once metaphorically drenched in Russian blood, the Japanese people will readily accept a return to the form of government which held sway prior to the end of World War II. As for Aleksandr Kalugin, the Russian President, he fully appreciates the historical truism that power granted in time of war frequently remains in the hands of whomever acquires said power.

Unfortunately for the American people, the United States is bound by a secret protocol to aid Russia in any conflict. However, if national honor requires American participation in the conflict, political reality dictates a very low profile. Thus, a squadron of American aircraft is dispatched to Russia to serve much in the manner as the Flying Tigers of pre-World War II fame.

Although the commander of the American squadron receives considerable attention, Coonts broadens his scope to focus on a Russian submarine captain as well as a Japanese pilot. All three are reluctant warriors, to say the least, and each contributes to the downfall of those who would plunge the world into a thermonuclear exchange.

The scenario which frames FORTUNES OF WAR is a touch implausible. Then again, life frequently precedes art and in a more tawdry fashion. This novel is the first to feature a protagonist other than Jake Grafton, the hero of Stephen Coonts’ earlier works.