16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
on October 21, 2007
I had read this book maybe 40 years ago when I was in school. I recommended it to my 17 year old son for a book report in light of all the conflicts in our world today. He not only was "in awe" after reading the book, he got an A on his report. If you read the book, follow it up with the movie... the original (black and white) NOT the remake! Larry Hagman plays the role of Buck superbly!!!!!
21 of 24 people found the following review helpful
Although somewhat dated, "Fail-Safe" is a taught novel that ranks among the best Cold War thrillers. The characters have real depth, and the writing moves at a brisk, tense...but not hurried pace. In fact, the authors do such an excellent job of cranking up the tension in one long, slow pull, I felt almost physically drained upon finishing it.
Of particular note, the authors have succeeded in writing a novel that operates on two levels. In the tradition of "On the Beach" by Shute, "Fail-Safe" is both a gripping novel, and a thoughtful commentary on the almost absurd politics of the Cold War. The authors examine what was at the time a very real concern about the hair-trigger between peace and global destruction; the concern that machines were supplanting humans. In so doing they reveal more about the mentality of the Cold War than many works of history.
In the end, "Fail-Safe" does a superb job of capturing the terror of the Cold War. It succeeds as both a thriller, and as a work of thought provoking literature. Enjoy!
14 of 16 people found the following review helpful
on November 19, 2000
Although it is now close to FORTY years old, "Fail-Safe" puts today's crop of political novelist to shame. A more compelling story has not been written.
The story is simple: a mechanical error send a group of U.S. Bombers towards the Soviet Union. The President tries mightily to recall them, in an effort to avoid the inevitable Soviet retaliation. He has to make an incredible sacrifice to keep the world from World War III.
Forget about the incredibly complex turns of my favorite writer of this genre, F. Forsyth. T. Clancy 's interwoven stories and mind numbing detail does not even come close to this simple, chilling story. Could it happen? Of course not, because of the fail-safe system. Or so they tell us...
Like Coke, this is the real thing.
28 of 35 people found the following review helpful
on January 25, 2001
I have read several Spenser novels chronologically starting with Mortal Stakes. This was my least favorite so far, but I still give it high grades. Parker is really stretching credibility in a story that boils down to a fight between two boys over a girl. It is a really big and complicated fight, and it involves mercenaries, gun manufacturers, CIA, FBI, so on and so on. But Parker somehow pulled it off. I can't help but enjoy the dynamic of Spenser, Hawk, Susan, et al. As with all of Parker's books, the strength lies in his characters.
Overall, it was an entertaining but not quite great book; it was just a little too farfetched to get a five star rating. But if you are a fan of Spenser, you have to read this book. It is of crucial importance if you are following the relationships and the development of the characters.
23 of 29 people found the following review helpful
on December 17, 2000
Before this every Spenser novel was enjoyable, rich with characterization, and an amazing sense of style.
Then came A Catskill Eagle.
It's like Parker used everything up right here. He has Spenser go cross country to save his girl and all of a sudden everything becomes overblown. There is no reason to believe that the villain is FBI related and a terrorist until Parker runs out of steam. And then it turns into a James Bond novel. Which isn't what I'm looking for.
It gets three stars because it's Parker, but after this Parker loses some steam, and the novels are on the decline. Until Small Vices anyway.
22 of 28 people found the following review helpful
on March 11, 2000
Having read all of Parker's Spenser novels -- and all but the first are very good or better -- this one is the best. It integrates all the familiar Spenser characters from earlier novels, even Rachel Wallace, sheds further light on the relationship with Hawk, and, most especially, on that with Susan Silverman, which is the subject of the esoteric title. It shows Spencer sensitive and suffering over the woman he loves, seems satisfying psychologically to me, although I'm not sure Susan would act quite as she did. But that's a quibble. This is Parker at his best, Spenser at his height, and a good, rip-roaring, cross-country adventure story to boot. I like God Save the Child and Mortal Stakes and Early Autumn and Small Vices very much. But if I had to take one Spenser book with me on a long, boring journey, this would be it.
12 of 15 people found the following review helpful
on February 11, 2004
A fictionalized, but chillingly realistic depiction of the men and machines who nearly brought the world to extinction during the height of the Cold War. An unidentified blip approaching North America appears on an automated tracking system. Is this the long-feared attack, or just another in an endless series of false alarms? Rather than find out after it's too late, the bombers are once again sent out, none of them certain if it's just another drill, or the real thing. But this time a mechanical failure in the automated system causes the bombers to go beyond their Fail Safe points, past which there is no return. Should we go ahead and launch an incapacitating first strike, since retaliation is assured anyway? Or do we help the enemy to shoot down our own planes, hoping to avert nuclear holocaust?
Among the cast of spare-drawn characters is Peter Buck, a natural linguist who is the White House's Russian translator despite his acute disinterest in politics, General Bogan, commanding officer of the information center known as the War Room, Colonel Cascio, who can't quite escape the poverty of his working-class roots, Lieutenant Colonel Grady, commander of a group of Vindicator bombers, and the President, who is faced with a situation that could win the Cold War - or destroy human civilization. The action takes place amidst the bomber group and in the War Room, but especially in the calculating minds of the men charged with making the most dangerous of all possible decisions.
As one might expect from a forty-year-old novel, the technology is rather out of date, but the moral lesson is as strong as ever. Every system, no matter how redundant, will eventually break down, making nuclear weapons far too dangerous to keep around. The president's final, grim decision is a lesson in moral courage, but even that may be insufficient in the dangerous years ahead, as nuclear proliferation continues. Written very convincingly in simple and straightforward prose, this book is not so much an entertainment as a call for political action. Let's get rid of these things before it's too late for all of us.
9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on January 20, 2000
This is the 12th in the Spenser series. The last chapters make the book very good, and up to that point it is absorbing because of the re-appearance of interesting characters. Here we find Hawk's greatest presence since _The Judas Goat_. Hugh Dixon of the same story gives Spenser $10,000 without a question asked. Rachel Wallace, of the book named after her, does research for Spenser.
It was difficult for me to accept the premise that Susan was in such bad shape psychologically that she would risk people's lives in having Hawk come "free" her from her lover and in then sending a dire message to Spenser. However, the story provides an in-depth analysis of Susan's perception of herself, which makes it a bit more understandable. Also, we learn the circumstances of Spenser's birth and find out who raised him.
It was only from Chapter 51 to the end that the story - and the characters' decisions - started to make sense. So, hang in there and finish this one, even if you're tempted to give up early.
Chapter 52 provides a fantastic description of entering a tunnel, having a heavy stone door close behind and descending into the earth - in total darkness. My heartbeat raced and my breathing quickened as I experienced every step Spenser took.
One humorous note, at least for me, is the revelation of Spenser's and Hawk's shoe sizes: 9 and 9 1/2. It seems like awfully small feet for such big men. :)
14 of 18 people found the following review helpful
on August 23, 1998
The arms race takes a turn for the worst as a nuclear strike is accidentally started. The fate of millions depends on the diplomacy of the highest echelons of government and the act of one man. It all seems like a bad movie plot now but thirty years ago, this was the fear in the hearts of all. I read this book in 1982 when the nuclear threat was still quite real but nowhere near as intense as it was during the early 60's. You'll finish reading this book wondering, "Were we ever this close to the end of the world?". The greatest horror stories are the ones that could actually happen. As dated as it is, Eugene Burdick still manages to take you on a wild ride to the Apocalypse.
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on December 24, 2006
This 1962 thriller is one of the most frightening novels ever penned. The story grips the readers with tension and fear after the U.S. accidentally launches a nuclear strike against Moscow. Can the bombers be called back before it's too late? What happens if they get thru and destroy the Soviet capital? The story is set in the White House and Pentagon, and occurs in the space of a few short hours - from the launching of the bombers due to false alarm, to frantic but unanswered calls that they return to base, to their terrifying approach to the Soviet capital. Readers feel as if they are on the scene, and we see in stark terms how tragedy can result from a combination of mistrust, miscalculations, and technological errors.
This fast-reading thriller by Eugene Burdick (1918-65) and Harvey Wheeler (1918-2004) captures the tenure of the Cold War - it was published the same year as the Cuban missile crisis. FAIL SAFE was also made into a solid 1964 film starring Henry Fonda and Walter Mathau.