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The Devil’s Alternative by Frederick Forsyth

The castaway would have been dead before sundown but for the sharp eyes of an Italian seaman called Mario.  By the time he was spotted he had lapsed into unconsciousness, the exposed parts of his near-naked body grilled to second-degree burns by the relentless sun, and those parts submerged in seawater soft and white between the salt sores like the limbs of a rotting goose.

Forsyth, Frederick. (1979).  The Devil’s Alternative.  New York: Bantam Books.

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“Only two lovers can save the world from nuclear destruction. Yet every way out means certain death. And the countdown has already begun.”

This book appeared in the book drop recently and seems very timely considering the results from last week’s election, with many Americans finding themselves of the mind that even the Devil’s alternative would be a far sight better than what we got.  The premise of the novel is that, in the year 1982, Russia is facing famine and cooperating with the United States in order to survive, until to everyone’s (meaning the KGB’s and the CIA’s) great consternation, the world is plunged into a multi-national web of intrigue and terror due to the rescue of a Ukrainian “freedom fighter”.  Things get off to a promising start in the prologue, as indicated by the pull quote included above, but the story is continuously bogged down with pages at a time of exposition: of characters’ backstories, of the inner workings of politics, of gratuitous explanations—the list goes on.  The story is enjoyable if you can get through the dull spots, and readers conscious of current events will find the parallels to contemporary issues of particular interest, but forging through the tedium is no small task.  Other notable features include the dedication (“For Frederick Stuart, who does not know yet”) and the truly ineffable description of the ship Garibaldi as “an amiable old rust bucket out of Brindisi”.

How it got published: Editor was probably asleep
Rating: Sort of okay

Reviewed: 11.17.2016
Posted: 11.17.2016

Published inFiction

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