August 25, 1986 12:00 PM

by Tom Clancy

Red Storm Rising should come in a box with a map and a large supply of little plastic fighter jets, ships, subs and tanks. This is the novel as a war-college course. In the first few pages religious fanatics sneak into one of the Soviet Union’s largest oil refining facilities, kill a lot of people and destroy everything. The Politburo, a bunch of sneaky old men, decides that the Soviet economy will be destroyed completely if they don’t seize the oil fields of the Middle East, so they prepare a surprise attack on West Germany. Does that make sense? To get the population ready for war, the KGB bombs eight Russian children and blames it on a German. The scene shifts constantly, so the reader lurches from Moscow to Norfolk, Va., to the USS Chicago, to Crofton, Md. to Hafnarfjördhur, Iceland, to Kiev, to Langley Air Force Base, Va., to Northwood, England, to Wachersleben, West Germany, to Brussels and a lot more places in between. The Russians invade Iceland. Troops march on West Germany, There is a cast of hundreds, and since most of them are military men who speak jargon and cuss a lot, they all talk alike. There is no hero as such, although a few men do brave deeds. There is, however, some suspense: Will the Russians resort to nuclear weapons? Clancy is the author of the surprise best-seller The Hunt for Red October. Apparently there is an audience for this kind of exercise. But it’s not much of a novel. (Putnam, $19.95)

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