Thanks to the Quasi Official Reading Game at KindleBoards.com, I just finished reading Red Alert by Peter Bryant, the novel that was the basis of Stanley Kubrik’s classic movie, “Dr. Strangelove“. I was not aware that this book was the inspiration for that movie until I picked it as my reading “assignment” for this month. The good news: it’s free. (I have no idea why it’s free, but if you’re interested at all in it, you might want to order it soon, in case Amazon changes its mind.)
The book details the events that occur over a period of less than three hours, as the world hovers on the brink of nuclear Armageddon. The action takes place in three places: A US airbase, the Pentagon, and aboard a B-52K Stratofortress bomber. If you have seen the movie, you will already know much of the basic plot, but unlike the movie, this is not a dark satire. Rather, it is a sober look at a possible path to mutual destruction. The time-frame is shortly after Sputnik and just as the first ICBM’s on both sides are about to come on line. As such, some of the dialogue will sound a bit dated to current ears (the book was published in 1958), but seems reasonably authentic to my distant recollection of those days. (On a side note, the B-52 model of bomber is still in active service over half a century later!)
Interestingly, while most of the book and the movie pretty well parallel each other, the ending does not. In fact, as things approached the climax, I started being reminded of another movie, “Fail-Safe“. Upon poking around a bit on Wikipedia, I found out that:
Eugene Burdick and Harvey Wheeler’s later bestseller Fail-Safe so closely resembled Red Alert in its premise that George sued on the charge of plagiarism, resulting in an out-of-court settlement. Both novels would inspire very different films that would both be released in 1964 by the same studio (Columbia Pictures).
[end semi-spoiler alert]
Anyway, it’s a fairly quick, taut read that avoids going over the top in its depiction of frightening times and possibilities. My only quibble is that there are enough obvious scanning errors to be slightly annoying, in particular in a couple places referring to three critical letters that are part of the plot. (If anything should have been proofread, they should have!) But for a price tag of $0.00, I’m willing to overlook that.