World War III: The Beginning
By the early 2000s, while the mainstream technothriller was declining, the self-published one was on the rise. In time this would lead to a very unique paradigm that I definitely wish to explore. But it also got some stinkers, like this. Despite the title, I could find no other books by Fulgham.
This is a submarine book, so it has the perils of submarine fiction. Or at least it would have if it wasn’t so badly written that any genre problems become secondary.
The structure of this book is rather cliche and technothriller-y, albeit applied in a very, very sloppy way. What it does is have its cake and eat it too with a “Islamic Republic” that has a giant carrier navy. (The first edition was in 2000, after 9/11 the author tried to claim it was prescient.)
So yes, we get Conference Room Infodumps. Rushed and sloppy conference room infodump.
A lot of the technical designations for aircraft and the like are just made up, but where this book shines in rivet-counting is in submarine operation commands. I hope you like reading submarine bridge commands, because it feels like 3/4 of the book consists of them.
The antagonists-a Middle Eastern superstate with three times as many aircraft carriers as the US Navy (!), are the perfect zombie sorceress state. Very little else really comes close.
Well, the characters are mostly flat, the biggest issue being that they’re always referred to by their first names. The plot is a confused vague mess of technothriller mush and some submarine bridge commands. Oh, and a romance. Mustn’t forget the romance between the female commander and her male XO (who I suspect strongly is an author Mary Sue). Yeah.
The Only Score That Really Matters
As a book itself, this is forgettably bad, one for just the self-published slush pile. But as an example of a certain kind of book, it’s a good early case study. The self-published thriller that lacks both the polish of a mainstream book and the attention to detail of an enthusiast story is one I’ve seen too much of.
So while a mainline technothriller, especially a later one, will have somewhat exaggerated gimmicks (IE, Dale Brown’s “stop the superlaser”), and an enthusiast one will have detailed, at least nominally grounded forces (The 20th Guards Motor Rifle Brigade and 2nd Tank Brigade crossed the border…) , this just goes “unite the Middle East and plop down dozens of aircraft carriers”. In a way it’s actually endearing.
One slightly redeeming quality to Fulgham’s book is that it’s short, unlike the somewhat similar but utterly unreadable Dragon’s Fury by Jeff Head.
I cannot recommend World War III: The Beginning, unless you like submarine steering commands. Then it’s the best book ever.