A Book Spy Review: ‘The Red Line’ By Walt Gragg

Walt Gragg The Red Line.jpg

When Valexi Yovanovich, a high-ranking general, convinces Russian President Comrade Cheninko that he has a plan to take over and conquer Germany in a matter of days, all hell breaks out as World War III takes flight.

Set in the not-too-distant future, Russia has finally returned to its Soviet roots. With the Warsaw Pack fully reinstated, Cheninko has set his sights on Germany–where American soldiers still reside.

Using a heavy winter storm as cover, Yovanovich leads a massive number of Russian tanks and special forces soldiers to the border of Russia and Germany. Waiting for them is a small, but well-trained unit of American fighters who skillfully hold off the invading forces until they realize a bigger strategy is at work.

Spetsnaz and other Russian forces stealthily attack carefully selected targets, knocking out, among other things, the Americans’ communication.

Any hope of reestablishing communication relies on George O’Neill, an everyday-Joe Staff Sergent who is willing to do whatever it takes to get the job done. But to give George a chance, the American men and women fighting, who are severely outnumbered, must find a way turn the tables long enough to slow down the Russians. The Americans’ weapons and better training even out the playing field somewhat as the two sides battle it out, but as a new Cold War gets underway, it’s immediately apparent that this war won’t be like the first.

The first time around, Russia and America went nearly fifty years without a major, serious conflict that set the world on fire. But as this new Cold War breaks out, Gragg pulls back the curtain, giving readers a plausible, if not terrifying, glimpse at what an all-out war between two superpowers might look like.

While George O’Neill plays an important role, Gragg doesn’t rely on any one single character to drive the story. Instead, this plot is truly conflict-driven, and the author displays a deep bench of characters who all find their way into the game at some point and make a real contribution to the story.

The battle scenes are very well-written, and there’s no doubt that’s Gragg’s strength. Some of the dialogue is a tad flat, but doesn’t distract from the nonstop action, while the visuals are direct and vivid enough–especially the opening where American forces are watching the Russians assemble their army in the white-out conditions caused by the swirling blizzard–to make readers feel present as the battle unfolds.

While some may pick up a Tom Clancy-like vibe, especially some of the earlier Jack Ryan novels, I actually thought Gragg writes more in the vein of Larry Bond or Rick Campbell–with a little Dale Brown-likeness thrown in there.

As the story winds down, Gragg keeps the power shift swinging from one direction to the next, making it hard to predict who, in fact, will emerge victorious. In the end, however, Gragg’s biggest lesson of all might just be that when two superpowers collide, the whole world loses–though he does provide a much more satisfying conclusion than that.

The Red Line is a smart, timely military thriller from a promising new author that, while coming in at a hefty five hundred pages, reads incredibly fast.

Book Details

Author: Walt Gragg
Pages: 528 (Hardcover)
ISBN: 0425283453
Publisher: Berkley
Release Date: May 2, 2017 (Order Now!)

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