The Texas-Israeli War: 1999
Jake Saunders and Howard Waldrop
Del Rey, 1974
Synopsis: In 1983, the Treaty of Oslo led to the widespread downsizing of the world’s nuclear arsenals. People being people, the nuclear WMD were replaced with chemical and biological weapons. In 1992, an escalating series of wars starts when Ireland dopes British water with LSD: by the end of the war 90% of the world has died and Israel is the sole industrial nation functioning. The US is embroiled in a Texan civil war and the land-hungry Israelis have signed up on both sides as mercenaries, trading their high tech military skills and weapons for promises of land and money.
Enter a diverse set of soldiers, mostly from Israel. Sol and Myra are lovers, each commanding their own tank force. After some skirmishing in the vicinity of “Dalworthington Metroplex”, the mercenaries are given a new assignment: rescue the President of the US, kidnapped some time earlier by the Texas Rangers. To this end, the mercenaries are diveded into two groups: King’s Pawn One, who will give up their advanced tanks for a collection of old clunkers captured from the Texans and infiltrate the fort where the President is being held as faux Texan mercenaries and King’s Pawn Two, who will covertly manuever to be near the the fort and provide heavy support when the time comes. Sol is in KP1, Myra is in KP2.
A complication: the VP is enjoying his new power and doesn’t want the President back. To this end, he tries to kill the CIA agent in charge of the operation and arranges for an attempt on the mercenaries’ lives. Another complication: the Sons of the Alamo, a nutcase nationalist group in Texas, are increasing their hold on the doomed republic and play the same role as the SS did for Germany in WWII.
The plan goes off as well as these things do in books: KP1 gets in place as does KP2 and while Myra is captured and tortured by the SA, she survives and the President is rescued. The VP is confronted by his boss and is clearly doomed.
This is ‑the- Howard Waldrop. These days I’d have expectations of him this book doesn’t match but as it happens this was the first book by him I ever read, which made the next book I read by him an interesting change of pace.
Not the worst war story I ever read but I didn’t find it engaging. More proof that a colon in a title is a bad sign and so is a map in the front of the book. Despite the fairly high casualty rate on both sides, there wasn’t much dramatic tension. They do make some attempt at making folks on both sides at least two dimensional but this was a lot like reading the novel version of an SPI boardgame.
Part of the problem is that the history between 1970 and 1999 is dippy: unless the LSD went into the water ‑first‑, the Republic of Ireland is unlikely to declare war on the UK, any more than Canada is to stage an unprovoked invasion of the US, even with super power backing. I can’t see how the Treaty of Oslo could have happened. It’s hard to care about a contrived scenario.
One thing I wondered about: WWIII is in ’92. How the heck did the US hold the ’92 election or the ’96 election? Not a plot killer at all but I just wondered.
It’s another higher-tech-than-us universe: advanced tanks have nuclear generators and gatling laser cannon, vaguely reminiscent of Drake’s later [?] Hammer’s Slammers tanks. Not much mentioned on the computer or non-warfare biology fronts.
On the whole, an inoffensive book. Wouldn’t be commercial today: it’d need another 300 pages at least.