Saturday, August 11, 2012

Book Review - Castro's Bomb

I will preface this review by stating that for the last three years I have been researching the planned invasion of Cuba for a book I'm writing. I'm also a Conroy fan. His alternate history novels are generally entertaining and enjoyable.

Three years of research on the Cuban Missile Crisis meant that the premise of this book captivated me. After the Cuban Missile Crisis Castro steals a nuke, seizes the US base at Guantanamo, and hands America a reeling defeat.

At least that's the first part of the book.

Conroy does a lot of good character development. I judge this by how the characters appear at the beginning and the end of the book. They grow, evolve, and you get to like them. The story he weaves is entertaining. If you've read his other alternate history novels, this one is worth adding to your collection.

My favorite character in this book is the spy that discovers Castro's plan at the start of the book and acts as a backchannel for talks with the Soviets. Despite my love of the combat scenes, I found this character the most interesting and appealing.

There are a few technical flaws but in all fairness, these are minor nits at best. First, in only one case were the cruise missiles used by the Russians actually married to the nuclear warheads during the crisis and post-crisis. Second, I found it implausible that the US would hold back a full retaliatory invasion of Cuba given what Castro does in the book. Sure, the Soviets apply a lot of diplomatic pressure, but lets get real. Time to break out OP Plan 316 and in 18 days you invade and secure Cuba. Also, post the missile crisis, our military presence in the region was still substantial and on alert in case the Soviets or Cubans revoked the terms of the agreement to remove the missiles.

The counter to these points is simple - Conroy is writing a novel here and there has to be some degree of literary license. So, setting aside my insider knowledge, I accepted the book for what it was - a great ride.

I rate Castro's bomb a four out of five stars. Pick it up and prepare for a great weekend read! 

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