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Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Resurrection Day

October 1962 was a nerve-wracking time for most Americans but it was only much later that I learned that I probably should have been closer to “terrified” than to “nervous.” I remember well reading the headlines and short articles in my thin local newspaper about the confrontation between Khrushchev and Kennedy that was happening in Cuba. There was a sense of great danger in the articles but I don’t recall talking with anyone who really believed that Russia and the United States would actually fire nuclear missiles at each other over the incident. Of course, I was only 14 at the time and may have been spared the truth about what adults were really thinking, but subsequent release of details about the confrontation show how utterly na├»ve so many of us were. (I do remember one of the infamous nuclear bomb drills, the old “duck and cover” routine, at my school that week but even that didn’t really scare me since I had already experienced several of those silly things.)

Resurrection Day, by Brendan DuBois, starts with the Kennedy-Khrushchev stalemate over the nuclear-tipped missiles that Khrushchev was installing in Cuba at Castro’s “invitation.” But DuBois takes an alternate path, the path we came so close to actually following, and explores what might have happened if Khrushchev had not blinked at nearly the last possible moment and agreed to remove his nuclear weapons from Cuba.

Ten years later, 1972-America has still not recovered from the devastation of the short war with Russia. Washington D.C. is still a blank spot on the map, New York City is off limits and has been fenced in by the military, and the country is still partially dependent on food supplies from Great Britain in order to feed people in its major cities. Russia has been effectively wiped off the map and its survivors forced into primitive living conditions in which their long term survival is still in doubt. It seems that the Soviet arsenal was greatly overrated and contained far fewer missiles capable of reaching the U.S. than had been thought before the war.

Carl Landry, military veteran turned Boston newspaper reporter, opens up a can of worms when he refuses to end his investigation into the murder of an old man who had contacted him with promises of a huge story. Despite being warned off the story by his editor and the paper’s resident military censor, Landry keeps snooping around and begins to uncover, with the help of his new British girlfriend, secrets about the true condition of New York City, the upcoming presidential election, and a plot between British and American military forces.

Brendan DuBois has created an intriguing version of America struggling to recover from the loss of its major city and its capitol. It is an America in which many want to believe that Kennedy survived the destruction of Washington D.C. and will return to power with a plan to rebuild the country while others despise him and blame him for being so trigger happy that he started a war that resulted in the deaths of millions of Americans and Russians. It is a world in which most of America’s former allies seem to delight in the fact that she is on her knees and needs their help, a condition in which some wish her to remain forever more. It is a country filled with paranoid citizens who truly do have to worry about being watched, arrested, and sent to detoxification camps if they say the wrong things to the wrong people.

Resurrection Day is not perfect. It probably overstates the difficulty that America would have rebounding from the kind of limited nuclear war described, one she actually won, and some of the characters, particularly the chief villain of the piece, are a bit on the stereotypical side and the ending feels a little too formulaic, too much like the culmination of so many other “spy thrillers,” But fans of alternate history will appreciate the world that DuBois created for us to ponder and should take a look at Resurrection Day.

Rated at: 3.5

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