I was recently asked by Bart Gauvin and Joel Radunzel to review their first book, Northern Fury: H Hour. This was exciting because I am a huge fan of Bart’s scenario work since playing my first during the Harpoon era and culminating into what I think is his GOAT level work with his Northern Fury CMANO scenario set. This work helped grow the popularity of the games and created wonderful stories for players to fall into after a hard day in the mine. Now partnering with a talented writer like Joel to create a series of novels based on that work makes perfect sense as more people will get to experience a really great story. I am definitely a fan and hope my bias shows in this case.
Northern Fury: H Hour is the first in a series of novels covering a Third World War between the Soviet Union and NATO in the 1990s. This novel describes the historical and hypothetical events that lead into and past war start through the eyes of many participants from the leader of the Soviet Union down to the fighter pilots, mechanized infantry officers fighting in Norway and Coast Guard commanders and crews off the US East Coast. The other theaters of war are mentioned at a high level but are left for follow-on novels in the series to cover in detail. There are a number of really great maps and diagrams included to help tell the tale and readers who may not know too much about Norwegian geography. The book is written for adults who like modern military fiction and is appears professionally edited.
I like many things about this book. The plot and writing style really sucked me in. I love books that I know after reading a chapter that I’m going to enjoy the entire ride. The writing flows comfortably and the plot makes sense. I even liked the preface which sets the reader up to understand the writers’ perspectives. The characters are well crafted, warts and all. Pavel Medvedev loves his country and his kids and he worries about them. It drives hard decisions that lead to world war. You get it though, it’s relatable, Pavel’s trying to do his best as he sees it. David Strong is at the tip of the spear and wants all to know it. Who wasn’t that ambitious but insecure young person at some point? You have a much to prove and the tools to do it. Abby Savage, skilled helicopter pilot and lioness, you feel her frustration at not being able to fly combat missions. Get her into the fight! The character work is great as you know these people, they could be you. Finally, Joel and Bart’s military expertise is in the novel. The complex mechanics of warfighting are explained well and fed into action sequences that make enjoyable sense to any war nerd. Norwegian and US Coast Guard, National Guard and Police defenders suffer horribly to the realities and challenges of modern war. Sometimes you can’t see the enemy, talk to your friends or have favorable odds. Sometimes your perfect plans fail and you lose. It is gritty, real and works.
I have a couple of gripes with the book. First, is I’d like to see a little more detail on what is going on in NATO and US leadership. You do get some bits and pieces on Norwegian thinking but the big picture stuff is murky. I want to see what the NATO leadership thinks and what they’ll be doing. My guess is I will get this next novel but it’s something I’m thinking about. My second gripe is probably me being a square but I’m not a fan of authors giving accents or sprinkling foreign words in. The word Tovarishch is used a lot and I’m not sure it is in colloquial Russian. There are also several instances where Brooklyn or Boston accents are used but are not consistent. It gets a little weird if you’re from any of these places but it is also a personal preference that may not be an issue to anybody else.
I am suggesting this book to anybody that loves military fiction. It surpasses most fiction in the genre because it is well written, has deep characters and the military action is smart. I view it as the spiritual successor of all those great novels of the eighties and nineties but with the far better insight into what was going on and superior writers. I look forward to the next chapters and its definitely on the short list of books I’ll be going back to again and again.