Red Alert (novel)
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Red Alert is a 1958 novel by Peter George about nuclear war. The book was the basis for Stanley Kubrick's 1964 film, Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb. Kubrick's film differs significantly from the novel in that it is a black comedy.
Originally published in the UK as Two Hours to Doom – with George using the pseudonym "Peter Bryant" (Bryan Peters for the French translation, 120 minutes pour sauver le monde) – the novel deals with the apocalyptic threat of nuclear war and the almost absurd ease with which it can be triggered. A genre of such topical fiction sprang up in the late 1950s – led by Nevil Shute's On the Beach – of which Red Alert was among the earliest examples.
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).
In paranoid delusion, a moribund U.S. Air Force (USAF) general, thinking to make the world a better place, unilaterally launches an airborne, preemptive, nuclear attack upon the USSR, from his command at the Sonora, Texas, Strategic Air Command (SAC) bomber base, by ordering the 843rd Bomb Wing to attack, per war plan "Wing Attack Plan R"—which would authorize a lower-echelon SAC commander to retaliate after an enemy first strike has decapitated the U.S. Government. He attacks with the entire B-52 bomber wing of new airplanes each armed with two nuclear weapons and protected with electronic countermeasures to prevent the Soviets from shooting them down.
When the U.S. President and Cabinet become aware the attack is underway, they assist the Soviet defense interception of the USAF bombers; to little effect, because the Soviets destroy only two bombers and damage one, the Alabama Angel, that remains airborne and en route to target.
The U.S. Government re-establishes the SAC airbase chain-of-command, but the suicidal general who launched the attack—the only man knowing the recall code—kills himself before capture and interrogation; however, his executive officer correctly deduces the recall code from among the general's desk pad doodles. The code is transmitted to and received by the surviving bomber airplanes and are successfully recalled, minutes before bombing their targets in the Soviet Union—save for the Alabama Angel—whose earlier-damaged radio prevents its recalling, and it progresses to its target.
In a last effort to avert a Soviet–American nuclear war, the U.S. President offers the Soviet Premier the compensatory right to destroy a U.S. city, offering Atlantic City, New Jersey, however, at the final moment, the Alabama Angel fails to destroy its target and nuclear catastrophe is averted.
George, Peter (1988) [c. 1963], Strangelove, or, How I learned to stop worrying and love the bomb, Oxford [Oxfordshire]; New York: Oxford University Press.
- ISBN 0795301227191 pp.
- ISBN 1596542616160 pp.