“Coonts is a master.” San Jose Mercury News
“From the master of the techno-thriller, a gripping tale of a new Russo-Japanese war.” People magazine
“Splendid ... Coonts's best yet.” Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
The bestselling author of "Flight of the Intruder" now presents a powerful story of an utterly believable Third World War. Filled with up-to-the-minute insider military detail and dramatic, compelling scenes of battles in the air and on the sea, "Fortunes of War" tells an epic tale of three heroes, three countries--and a world in the balance.
“Coonts is a master.” San Jose Mercury News
“From the master of the techno-thriller, a gripping tale of a new Russo-Japanese war.” People magazine
“Splendid ... Coonts's best yet.” Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
Stephen Coonts's new military thriller, Fortunes of War, plays a riff of the Armageddon rag. Japanese politics and the possibility that Japan might have a secret army preparing for future combat and expansion fuel the plot. Coonts very carefully calls no side evil and makes sure that the Japanese people are not reduced to caricatures. Even so, in Fortunes of War, Japan's will, as a nation, is one of undiluted vengeance for the bombs dropped at Hiroshima and Nagasaki by the U.S.
In Japan, four telephone repairmen enter the Emperor's quarters while the Emperor and his family sit in the garden with his top adviser. Atsuko Abe, Japan's prime minister, presents the Emperor with a plan to restore Japan to a world-class power. These plans include forcing Russia to hand an oil-rich Siberia over to the Japanese. Knowing that the Russians would not do this voluntarily, Abe has delineated a plan of attack against the Russians. This includes forcibly taking the oil fields by strategic military action. The Emperor is not pleased with this. His memory of World War II, and the destruction that it brought upon Japan, is fresh enough to warn him from such a course of obliteration. But the prime minister has made up his mind, feeling that the future belongs to Japan, with or without its Emperor.
Atsuko Abe leaves the palace. As the Emperor and his wife return to their chambers, they are confronted by the four telephone repairmen, who are, in fact, overzealous assassins. Following the ancient code of the samurai warrior, the four men chop off the Emperor's headandthen commit suicide, leaving no survivors and only one witness: the Empress of Japan, whose young son will be the new emperor.
Meanwhile, Jiru Kimura meets with U.S. military attaché Colonel Bob Cassidy. Kimura is a young jet pilot who works in the Japanese self-defense air corps. He was trained in the U.S., and he and Cassidy go back to the days in Colorado Springs when Cassidy was his instructor. Kimura has learned that the Japanese are beginning to mobilize their fighter jets, called Zeroes, and equip them with a superstealth capability so that they will be completely undetectable by radar. He passes the information on to Cassidy with the hopes that this knowledge will help avert World War III.
But the U.S. is slow to respond to this and other warnings. The red tape of Washington tangles anything it touches. Soon the Japanese invade Siberia and quickly go on the offensive in order to secure the area for themselves. Russia, under new leadership, has just begun to pick itself up from the brink of economic disaster, and so cannot afford to lose the oil fields on its frontier. Aleksander Kalugin, the Russian president, has just secured his country's borders, and the Japanese threat might just topple his shaky government. As the threat of nuclear war increases, Kimura, Cassidy, and others are drawn into the vortex of action in the sky and on the earth. This makes for some tense air battles, particularly between Jiro Kimura and his mentor, Bob Cassidy.
Coonts's novel is a fast-paced, world-class read but suffers a bit from a lack of focus on any one character. Still, Coonts's characters are well-drawn and make for compelling reading. The arena of war is definitely the setting of the novel, even while it jumps from Japan to Washington to Moscow to Siberia. For fans of Coonts, as well as those interested in Japan and its politics, FORTUNES OF WAR is compulsive reading.
Douglas Clegg is the author of numerous horror and suspense novels, including Dark of the Eye and The Children's Hour. His most recent short story, "O, Rare and Most Exquisite," can be found in the anthology The Year's Best Fantasy and Horror: Volume 10.
The two telephone company vans moved along the traffic-choked boulevard beside the Imperial Palace at a snail's pace, precisely the speed at which everyone drove. Traffic in Tokyo this June morning was heavy, as usual. Reeking exhaust fumes rose from the packed roadways into the warm, hazy air in shimmering waves.
In the lead van, the driver kept his eyes strictly on the traffic. The driver was in his mid-twenties, and he looked extraordinarily fit in his telephone company one-piece jumper. He wore a blue company billed cap over short, carefully groomed hair. Concentrating fiercely on the traffic around him, he drove with both hands on the steering wheel.
The passenger in the lead van was a few years older than the driver. He, too, wore a one-piece blue jumper and billed cap, both of which sported the company logo. This man examined with sharp, intelligent eyes the stone wall that surrounded the palace grounds.
Between the fifteen-foot wall and the boulevard was a centuries-old moat that still contained water. Atop the wall was a green tangle of trees and shrubs, seemingly impenetrable. There were actually two moats, an outer moat and an inner one, but here and there they had been permanently bridged. In many places, they had just been filled in. Here in the heart of Tokyo, the remaining hundred-foot-wide expanses of water populated with ducks and lined with people were stunning, inviting, an inducement to contemplation.
The passenger of the lead van paid little attention to the open water or the crowds. He was interested in police cars and palace security vehicles, and he mentioned every one he saw to the driver. Occasionally, he checked his watch.
When the two vans had completely circled the royal compound, the man in the cargo area of the lead van spoke a few words into a handheld radio, listened carefully to the reply, then nodded at the man in the passenger seat, who was looking at him. That man patted the driver on the arm twice.
In a few seconds, the vans turned into a service entrance. The inner moat had been filled in here, and the vehicles went through a narrow gate in the wall to a courtyard. A uniformed security officer in a glassed-in guardhouse watched the vehicles park. There were two armed officers by the gate and two by the door of the building. All four of them watched the passenger get out of the lead vehicle and walk over to the guardhouse.
The security officer's little window was already open, apparently for ventilation.
The passenger gave a polite bow, just a head bob. "We are the telephone repairmen. They told us to come this morning."
"Identity cards, please."
The passenger passed them over.
"Yes. I have you on the list." The officer gave the cards back.
"Where should we park?"
"Near the door." He gestured vaguely. "There should be no conflicts. How long will your repairs take?"
"I don't know. We will have to inspect the failure, ensure we have the proper equipment to repair it."
"You must be out of the palace by four o'clock."
"And if we cannot fix it by then?"
"You will have to call the Imperial Household Agency, describe the problem, and make an appointment to return."
"I understand. First, we must diagnose the problem. We have some test equipment to take inside."
The security officer nodded and gestured to the two armed policemen standing near the door.
It took a bit to get the vans parked and unloaded. One of the security officers went over and spoke for a moment to the man in the guardhouse while the telephone men checked their equipment. The four men each hoisted a share. One of the security officers held the door open for them, and another followed them inside.
"I will show you where the problem is," he told the four, then took the lead. "The agency has a telephone technician on the staff. If you wish, I will have him summoned and he can tell you what he learned when he examined the system."
"We may have to do that," the man who had been the passenger in the lead van said. "We will look first."
They went up a staircase to the second floor and down a long corridor. They were inside an equipment room when the garroting wire went over the guard's head, startling him. The wire bit deeply into his neck before he could make a sound. He was struggling against the wire when one of the men, now in front of him, seized his head and twisted it so violently that his neck snapped.
The repairmen took the guard's weight as he went limp. They placed the body in a corner of the room, out of sight of anyone who might come to the door, open it, and look in. The murder had taken no more than sixty seconds.
The men picked up their equipment. Outside in the hallway, the passenger from the van ensured the door was completely shut and latched.
Their rubber-soled shoes made no noise as the four men walked the marble corridors deeper and deeper into the huge palace.
The bubbling, laughing children circled about the empress with carefree abandon. They giggled deliciously as they danced around her arm in arm on the manicured green lawn, among the shrubs and flowers growing riot in lush beds, under a bright sun shining down from a gentle blue sky, while temple bells chimed in the distance. Stately, measured, the bells proclaimed the beauty of an ordered universe.
Emperor Naruhito was probably the only person to pay any attention to the chiming temple bells, which he thought the perfect musical accompaniment to the informal lawn ceremony in front of him. The children's bright, traditional dress contrasted sharply with the deep green grass and captured the eye as they circled around the empress, who was wearing a silk ivory-colored kimono trimmed with exquisite organdy. The other adults were removed a pace or two, ceding center stage to the empress and the happy children. The photographers shooting the scene stationed themselves ever so slightly out of the way. They were dressed in nondescript clothing, rarely moved, and, in the finest tradition of their profession, managed to fade into the scene almost like shadows.
The natural world certainly had an innocent charm that human affairs lacked, the emperor mused bitterly. For weeks now he had been brooding upon the current political situation. The new prime minister, Atsuko Abe, seemed bent on forcing the nation onto a new course, a course that Emperor Naruhito regarded with a growing sense of horror.
The Japanese political situation had been drifting to the right for years, the emperor thought as he watched the empress and the children. He reviewed the sequence yet again, trying to make sense of an avalanche of events that seemed beyond human control.
Each government since the great bank collapse had lasted a short while, then was swept from office and replaced by one even more reactionary. As the emperor saw it, the problem was that politicians were not willing to tell the Japanese people the truth. Their island nation was small, overpopulated, and lacked natural resources. The prosperity of the post — World War II era was built on turning imported raw materials into manufactured products and selling them to the American market at prices American manufacturers could not compete with. Japan's price advantage rested on low labor costs, which eventually disappeared. Sky-high real estate and hyperinflated stock values fell sickeningly as Japan's economic edge evaporated. The government propped up the overextended banking system for a while, but finally it collapsed, nearly bankrupting the government. Then tensions in the Mideast rose to the flash point and the Arabs cut off the sale of oil to force the developed world to pressure Israel.
The oil was flowing once again, but the damage was done. Japan found it could not afford Mideast oil at any price. The yen was essentially worthless, the banking system in ruins, huge industrial enterprises couldn't pay their bills, and disillusioned workers had been laid off in droves.
Maybe the Japanese were doomed. The emperor had moments when cold anxieties seized his heart, and he had one such now.
Perhaps they were all doomed. To be led into the outer darkness by a poisonous ultranationalist like Atsuko Abe, a demagogue preaching against the evils of foreign values and foreign institutions while extolling the virtues of the ancient Japanese nation — was this the Japanese destiny? Was this what the nation had come to?
Ah ... Japan, ancient yet young, fertile yet pure and unspoiled, home for the select of mankind, the Japanese.
If that Japan had ever existed, it was long gone, yet today Abe waved the racial memory like a flag before a dispirited, once-proud people betrayed by everything they trusted. Betrayed, Abe claimed, by Western democracy. Betrayed by bureaucrats. Betrayed by captains of industry ... betrayed by capitalism, an import from a foreign culture....
Japan, Abe thundered, had been betrayed by a people who refused to hold its values dear, the Japanese. They were guilty. And they would have to pay the price.
All of this was political rhetoric. It inflamed half-wits and foreigners and gave newspapers much to editorialize about, but it was only hot air, spewed by Abe and his friends to distance themselves from other, more traditional politicians, and to win votes, which it did. Only when he was firmly ensconced in the prime minister's office, with the reins of power in his hands, did Atsuko Abe began to discuss his true agenda with his closest allies.
Friends of the emperor whispered to him of Abe's ambitions, because they were deeply troubled. Abe's proclamations, they said, were more than rhetoric. He fully intended to make Japan a world power, to do "whatever was required."
Naruhito, always conscious of the fact that the post-World War II constitution limited the throne to strictly ceremonial duties, held his tongue. Still, the burden of history weighed oppressively upon him.
A personal letter from the president of the United States shattered Naruhito's private impasse. "I am deeply concerned," the President said, "that the Japanese government is considering a military solution to aggravating regional and economic problems, a solution that will rupture the peace of the region and may well trigger worldwide conflagration. Such a calamity would have enormous, tragic implications for every human on this planet. As heads of state, we owe our countrymen and our fellow citizens of the planet our best efforts to ensure such an event never occurs."
There was more. Naruhito read the letter with a sense of foreboding. The president of the United States knew more about the political situation in Japan than he, the emperor, did. Obviously, the president got better information.
Near the end of the letter, the president said, "We believe the Abe administration plans an invasion of Siberia to secure a permanent, stable oil supply. The recent appeals of the indigenous Siberian people for Japanese aid in their revolt against the Russians are a mere pretext orchestrated by the Abe government. I fear such an invasion might trigger a world war, the like of which this planet has never seen. A third world war, one more horrible than any conflict yet waged by man, may bring civilization to a tragic end, throwing the world into a new dark age, one from which our species may never recover."
Here, in writing, were the words that expressed the horror the emperor felt as he observed the domestic political situation. Even though he lacked the specific information that the president of the United States had, Naruhito also felt that he was watching the world he knew slide slowly and inexorably toward a horrible doom.
"I am writing you personally," the president concluded, "to ask for your help. We owe it to mankind to preserve the rule of law for future generations. Our worldwide civilization is not perfect; it is a work in progress, made better by every person who obeys the laws and works for his daily bread, thereby contributing to the common good. Civilization is the human heritage, the birthright of all who will come after us."
Naruhito asked the prime minister to call.
Although the emperor had met Atsuko Abe on several occasions since he had become prime minister, he had never before had the opportunity to speak privately with him. Always, there were aides around, functionaries, security people. This time, it was just the two of them, in the emperor's private study.
After the polite preliminaries, the emperor mentioned the letter and gave Abe a copy to read.
Atsuko Abe was unsure how to proceed or just what to say. A private audience with the emperor was an extraordinary honor, one that left him somewhat at a loss for words. Yet this letter ... He knew the Americans had spies — spies and political enemies were everywhere.
"Your Highness, we are at a critical juncture in our nation's history," Atsuko Abe said, feeling his way. "The disruption of our oil supply was the final straw. It wrecked the economy. Japan is in ruins; millions are out of work. We must repair the damage and ensure it never happens again."
"Is it true?" the emperor asked, waving the letter. "Is your government planning an invasion of Siberia?"
"Your Excellency, we have received a humanitarian appeal from the native Siberian people, who are seeking to throw off the Russian yoke. Surely you have been briefed on this development. The justice of their situation is undeniable. Their appeal is quite compelling."
"You are evasive, sir. Now is the time for speaking the blunt truth, not polite evasion."
Abe was astounded. Never had he seen the emperor like this, nor imagined he could be like this.
"The time has come for Japan to assume its rightful place in the world," the prime minister said.
"A superpower," Abe said confidently. He stared boldly at the emperor, who averted his eyes from the challenge on Abe's face.
Then, ashamed, he forced himself to look the prime minister in the eye. "Is it true?" the emperor asked obstinately. "Does Japan plan to invade Siberia?"
"Our hour has come," Abe replied firmly. "We are a small island nation, placed by the gods beside a growing Chinese giant. We must have oil."
"But you have signed an agreement with the Russians! They will sell us oil."
"That, Your Excellency, is precisely the problem. As long as we are buying Russian oil, we are at their mercy. Japan must have its own resources."
The son of an industrialist, Atsuko Abe had spent the first two decades of his adult life in the Japanese Self-Defense Force, the military. Although he was selected for flag rank, he left at an early age and obtained a post in the defense ministry. There Abe made friends with politicians across the spectrum, rose in influence, won promotion after promotion. Finally, he left the bureaucracy and ran for a seat in the Diet, which he won handily. He had been there for almost ten years, surfing the political riptides that surged through the capital.
He was ready now, at sixty-two years of age. This was his moment.
The emperor refused to look away. "Our hour? How dare you? This nation has never been in a shadow. Our way of life is honorable; we have kept faith with our ancestors. Our nation has made mistakes in the past, for which our people have paid dearly, but our honor is unstained. We need no hour of conquest, no triumph of violence, no blood on our hands."
"You are born to your position," Abe said bitterly. "What do you know of struggle, of triumph?"
The emperor fought to maintain his composure. "Russia has nuclear weapons, which the Russians might use to defend themselves. Have you the right to risk the very life of this nation?"
"We are in a grave crisis, Your Excellency."
"Don't patronize me, Prime Minister."
Abe bowed. When he straightened, he said, "Forgive me, Excellency. The fact you do not know is that Japan also is a nuclear power. I am convinced that Russia will not risk nuclear war to retain a wasteland that has never earned her a single yen of profit."
The emperor sat stunned. "Japan has nuclear weapons?" he whispered.
"How? How were these weapons developed and manufactured?"
"With the greatest secrecy. Obviously." The manufacture of these weapons was Abe's greatest triumph, a program reluctantly agreed to by politicians watching their world collapse, then accomplished under a security blanket worthy of Joseph Stalin.
"The government did this without the consent of the Diet? Without the knowledge and consent of the Japanese people? In violation of the constitution and the laws?"
Abe merely bowed his head.
"What if you are wrong about Russia?" the emperor demanded. "Answer me that. What if Russia retaliates with nuclear weapons?"
"The risk is as great for Russia as it is for Japan, and Russia has less at stake."
"They may not see the equation as you do, Prime Minister."
Abe said nothing.
The emperor was too astonished to go further. The man is mad, he thought. The prime minister has gone completely mad.
Excerpted from Fortunes of War by Stephen Coonts. Copyright © 1998 Stephen P. Coonts. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
With over 15 million copies of his bestselling books in print, Stephen Coonts is one of today's foremost chroniclers of suspence fiction, with thrillers that soar full-throttle into heart-stopping excitement. His books include The Disciple, The Assassin, and the Deep Black and Saucers series, among many other bestsellers.
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Steven Coonts did a fairly good job on Fortunes of War. The introduction really caught my attention. The middle lost me though, because Coonts kept switching back and forth between the F-22 jets and the submarine attacks. I also think the book had too many characters. The characters that did stand out were somewhat realistic. The main characters Coonts uses in Fortunes of War come from the three countries that are at war. The first person we hear about is Bob Cassidy. Bob is an Air Force Academy graduate, and is the leader of the F-22 division. Next, is Jiro Kimura, he is also an Air Force Academy graduate of the same year as Cassidy. They both know each other very well. Kimura, even though he is a graduate of the Air Force Academy, is fighting in the ¿Zero¿s.¿ The ¿Zero¿ is Japans newest fighter. It has ANTENA technology, which makes it invisible to radar. The third character is Pavel Saratov; he is a Captain in charge of a Russian submarine. The plot in this book is not very realistic. Fortunes of War is set in 2008. It starts out with three Japanese nationalists dressed up as Telephone mechanics invading the Palace, and beheading the Emperor. Japan wants to conquer the oil rich Siberia; which would be key to conquering the World. The Russians are defending it, but because of their weak economy, and lack of military strength, they have to get the United States to help them. The USAF gives Russia ten F-22¿s with no American markings, to help fight the Japanese ¿Zeros.¿ Overall, Fortunes of War is a fairly good book that kept my attention through a good ¾ of it. Coonts could really work on the realism of this book. For instance, Russia is a third world country basically in this book. It has a very weak economy, and doesn¿t have enough money to pay its soldiers. The strong point of this book is its captivity. The first chapter is a good example. Right at the start three Japanese nationalists murder the Emperor. What could be better than that? In conclusion, this book is an OK book. It has its ups and its downs. You probably have to read it a couple times to really understand it. If you have a night or too to sit down and read this book, I suggest that you do.
I've read all of Stephen Coonts books and this was his best yet. The action is superb.
Excellent read, well thought out and put together for those of us that are used to reading Stephen Coonts stories.
I enjoyed the book. It was typical Stephen Coonts. If you like his work then you will like this one to.
Could not stop reading
Some errors, but overall I enjoyed the book.
From reading Fortunes of War, I sort of liked it. It was a pretty good take on the Russo-Japanese War. It featured viewpoints from three sides: the Americans, the Russians, and the Japanese. This makes an excellent story of an ultimate war that mixes a real-life with military details that were state-of-the-art. Fortunes of War will lead the reader through a wild goose chase in three different countries with scenes of air, land, and sea battles that are dramatic. I would recommend this book to anyone who's into books of war or fans of the other Stephen Coonts novels.
This is the second Stephen Coonts' book I've read and it is better then America (1st book),I enjooy MR. Coonts very much, and look forward to reading more of his books, such as " Liberty".
This was my first read of a Coonts novel and I really enjoyed it. Like Clancey, Stephen puts you in the arena of high tech war from multiple points of view but without the intricate detail of every useable device. The only let down I felt the novel had was, the lack of a few more twists and turns in the plot.
I am only up to page 180 and this has been one of the best books in the world. It was my first novel I read by Steven Coonts. This is full of action. If you are an action type of person, youw will not be disappointed. Coonts displays the war feeling excellent!
Very good i coulnt but it down very good