Saturday, July 29, 2017

Book Review: The Apocalypse Brigade

Book Review: 'The Apocalpyse Brigade' by Alfred Coppel

3 / 5 Stars

‘The Apocalypse Brigade’ (342 pp) first was published in hardback in 1983; this paperback version was released by Ace / Charter Books in April 1983.

The novel is set in the ‘near future’, i.e., 1989, at which time all the geopolitical nightmares birthed in the late 70s, such as the Iran Hostage Crisis, successive Oil Embargos, and the rise of Political Islam, have conspired to render the West a collection of ‘timid democracies’ led by particularly inept and spineless politicians…..

In the U.S., the president - a party hack named Vincent Todd Loomis - is paralyzed with indecision in the aftermath of an Islamic revolution that has overthrown the Saudi government, throttled oil production, and (worse yet) led to yet another hostage crisis, as radicals toting AK-47s parade captured U.S. Embassy personnel in Riyadh before the TV cameras, accusing them of crimes against the people.

Calder Smith Davis, wealthy magnate, philanthropist, and the head of the global nonprofit enterprise the New Peace Corps (NPC), offers to secretly negotiate with the radicals in an effort to free the captives. Loomis agrees, calculating that any failed rescue effort will reflect poorly on Davis, while a successful effort will make Loomis a hero and master statesmen.

But what Vincent Todd Loomis doesn’t know is that Calder Smith Davis is no George Soros, seeking to bring corporate benefit to the disenfranchised of the world. Davis is in fact the most dangerous of men……..a megalomaniac with a vision for how the world should be re-made, and the money and connections to make it happen……..

‘The Apocalypse Brigade’ was published in the era before ‘techno-thriller’ became a household word (Tom Clancy’s The Hunt for Red October wouldn’t be published intil 1984). However, in many regards ‘Apocalypse’ qualifies as a proto-techno-thriller, one with some nods to the style of Robert Ludlum.

Alfred Coppel (1921 – 2004) was already a well-published, prolific author at the time ‘Apocalypse’ was released, so it’s not surprising that the novel is reasonably well-written. It adheres to the thriller novel style of the 70s and early 80s by having multiple sub-plots, a large cast of characters, and a main plot that takes so long to unfold that the eponymous Brigade doesn’t go into action until the last 40 pages. Although the denouement has some contrivances, it also doesn’t wrap everything up with a Happily Ever After fade-out, either.

I can’t see any younger readers being all that captivated by ‘The Apocalypse Brigade’, although Baby Boomers who remember the atmosphere of the late 70s, and songs like the Kink’s ‘Catch Me Now I’m Falling’, may find memories revived upon reading ‘Brigade’. As well, the conservative, hard-right political opinions that Coppel advocates for within his novel may – arguably – be just as relevant to our modern age as it was in 1981………..

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