Ever since I was a child, I have always enjoyed that little cul-de-sac of fiction signposted "counter-factual". What if has always been a interesting question to ask and forms an important part of war gaming. After all, for those of you have re-fought Waterloo haven't tried to better the efforts of the Duke?
So bearing that in mind, during some enforced downtime, I read the copy of "2017" I picked up last week. Given that it was written by General Sir Richard Shirreff, former Deputy Supreme Allied Commander Europe, my hopes were quite high. But, a lot like the "Invasion Literature" popularised in the late 19th, early 20th centuries, its faults detract from what could have been an entertaining tale.
Set in the year 2017, the novel takes the multiple point of view format used to great effect by Tom Clancy and Larry Bond thirty years ago. Characterisation is pretty minimal, especially the Russians who wouldn't be amiss in a Panto version of a Bond film. All the novel's version of Putin needs is a moustache to twirl. The good guys are pretty much good guys, and the gals are all as pretty as can be. Seriously, say what you like about the author, but he likes the ladies to be pretty. And poor old David Cameron. Not by name, but boy, his caricature is not flattering at all!!!
So, sneaky Russians, gullible Europeans, incompetent politicians, plucky soldiers, this book has it all. As well as its most glaring flaw. The message. The axe the author has to grind. Yep, the sorry state we are in is down to silly politician types having no clue at how defence works, or what is needed to protect the country or its allies. This point is hammered home atleast once every two chapters. The last chapter has what can only be called a call to arms, a speech calling for eyes to be opened before it is too late. Don't get me wrong, it's not a bad message, it just doesn't need to be delivered with the force of a Charlie 2 down the throat. Still, it kind of has a happy ending.
I mentioned Clancy and Brown earlier. I would compare "2017 War With Russia" with their earlier works and I find the "2017" lacking. Ok, Clancy and Brown weren't brilliant authors but atleast their characters had some character. Shirreff's don't. They exist just to get his point across. Similarly, Clancy and Bond put a lot of technology into their techno-thrillers. Whilst Shirreff does know what he is talking about, it's very lightweight.
Overall, it's fluff, good for an afternoon's lazy read.