Red Alert


Red Alert
(1958)
   Peter George had first published his novel Red Alert (under the title Two Hours to Doom) in England in 1958. His own experiences in the Royal Air Force provided a background to the events depicted in the novel. Although George’s primary concern was with accidental nuclear war, the novel glorifies the military-industrial complex and is dense with technical descriptions and procedures. Its jingoistic tone led its publishers to advertise it as a wartime adventure story. In their examination of the novel, writers Jeffrey Townsend, John Tibbetts, and James Welsh note, “Red Alert seems hopelessly blind to the absurdity of the ‘big stick’ rationality it places so much faith in, making it hard to believe the George could ever stop worrying and truly love the bomb.
   The story takes place on “the day after tomorrow. ” General Quinten, the terminally ill and deeply disturbed commander of Senora Air Force Base, dispatches a fleet of B-52 planes to drop nuclear bombs on the Soviet Union. He believes that once the Pentagon realizes the futility of calling the planes back (since only Quinten knows the return code), they will commit to a full-scale attack. The president rejects this, since he knows that political instability within the Soviet Union has led to a policy by which, if attacked and unable to retaliate, the premier would be forced to detonate stockpiles of nuclear bombs hidden in the Ural Mountains, thereby rendering the world uninhabitable for the next six months. The president dispatches troops to capture Quinten, but Quinten has foreseen this measure and sealed his base off from attack. Before he can be captured, Quinten kills himself, thus ensuring no one can get the return code. However, an associate successfully divines the code—but not before one bomber, the Alabama Angel, slips through and continues on its deadly mission. The president concedes to the premier that if the plane bombs its target, he will sacrifice a comparable U. S. city. Just before it is shot down by Soviet fighter planes, the Alabama Angel releases a nuclear warhead. But the bomb has been disabled by the Russian fighters, and it lands on its target without doing any serious damage. The Russian premier accordingly does not release a nuclear bomb on the United States. Peace is declared once more between the two megapowers.
   References
   ■ Townsend, Jeffrey, John C. Tibbetts, and James M. Welsh,“Red Alert,” in John C. Tibbetts and James M. Welsh, eds. , Novels into Film (New York: Facts On File, 1999), pp. 183–186.

The Encyclopedia of Stanley Kubrick. . 2002.

Look at other dictionaries:

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