We’re very excited to be wishing our handsome new reissue of Spec Ops Z by Gavin G. Smith a very happy book birthday! The reissue is a fantastic opportunity for readers to discover, or re-discover, this high-octane world and get to know its Spetznaz squad!
When Vadim Scorlenski and his elite Spetznaz squad are sent to New York at the height of the Cold War, they’re told it’s a ‘training exercise.’ They discover, too late, that the ‘practice’ chemical weapon they’re carrying is all too real. They go to their deaths…
…and awaken to a city overwhelmed by the walking dead, even now spreading across the globe. Somehow holding onto their identities amid the mindless monsters, Scorlenski and his squad of zombie commandos set out to return to Russia.
Someone’s going to pay.
A handsome new re-issue of a high-octane military-SF, as Russian Spetsnaz commandos are turned into zombies in ’80s New York.
“High octane SF adventure with Smith’s trademark twist” — Jamie Sawyer on The Bastard Legion
“An exceptional talent” – Peter F Hamilton
“Pure, unapologetic, full-throttle, action packed awesomeness… Obviously, the author had too much fun.” — The Bookbeard on Spec Ops Z
I have written about how important music is to me when I write a couple of times before. It’s no real secret that I’m a big fan of alternative, rock and metal music; but I do like a good pop song as well. As a kid you tend to be exposed to pop music first, but the pop music of the ’eighties was different to the pop music of today. This is in no way a denigration of today’s tunes: pop music is always something of a reflection of the era that it exists in. It’s very telling, then, that so many of the pop songs of the ’eighties were less to do with boys-meeting-girls, or broken hearts, as they were about being turned to ash in a nuclear firestorm. I’m not talking about some floppy-haired angst-ridden indie bands, or angry protest rock/metal. I’m talking about mainstream top-ten pop hits in all their excessively-hair-sprayed glory. At the height of the Special Purposes: First Strike Weapon. It’s all hyperlinked, so please have a listen to what pop music was like thirty years ago (Jesus Christ, I’m getting old):
So straight away I’m going to break my pop-only rule and talk about metal. Not just any metal band, but that the metalist of metal bands, the surprisingly uncompromising Iron Maiden! I shall convince you that this is okay by pointing out that their single “Two Minutes to Midnight” reached number 11 in the UK charts in 1984. From the album Powerslave, “Two Minutes to Midnight” is a protest song about nuclear war referencing the Doomsday Clock, a symbolic clock designed to illustrate how close humanity is to global catastrophe (midnight). Two minutes is the closest it has ever been, hence the song title. (It’s worth noting that, thanks to the election of Donald Trump, the Doomsday Clock currently stands at two and a half minutes to midnight.)
So for my second choice… er… I’m going to cheat again. (So the blog’s going well then.) I always thought this song was about nuclear war. I’ve just checked the Wiki and discovered that it’s about a meltdown in a nuclear power station. So anyway now the blog is about songs in the key of nuclear. I just really like Ultravox’s “Dancing With Tears in my Eyes,” also from 1984. It reached number 3 in the UK charts (we had those before Spotify).
Now, the third track is about nuclear war; in fact it’s about the only nuclear war we have ever had: World War Two. “Enola Gay,” by Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark, references the dropping of the atomic bomb Little Boy on Hiroshima on the 6th of August 1945. The bombing, along with the destruction of Nagasaki, led to the end of WWII. The title comes from the name of the B-29 Superfortress bomber that dropped Little Boy. (Somewhat creepily, the B-29 was named after the pilot’s mum.) Reaching number 8 in the UK charts, the song questions the necessity of the bombing. Released in 1980, “Enola Gay” was considered a protest song at a time when Margaret Thatcher (Theresa May’s more competent, but no less evil spiritual predecessor) was welcoming US nuclear missiles onto British soil.
Frankie Goes to Hollywood took a slightly different approach to the prospect of nuclear war when they enthusiastically and nihilistically embraced it with their track “Two Tribes” in 1984. (Again! What was going on 1984?) The track included samples from Protect & Survive, a British public service film that included guidelines for keeping a stiff upper lip whilst dying of radiation poisoning. Using elements of both Russian classical music and American funk music to symbolise the clash of the two superpowers, “Two Tribes” was the longest running number one single of the ’80s. The song title is taken from a line in the film Mad Max 2, which is of course a post-apocalypse movie. The single’s cover included a Soviet-style mural of Lenin, as well as images of Thatcher and Regan. Promotional pictures for the song saw the band in Red Army uniform standing in front of iconic American landmarks. (Trivia: Chris Barrie [Arnold Rimmer of Red Dwarf fame] appears on some of the 12-inch remixes doing an impression of Regan, who he played on Spitting Image. I did not know that.)
I am not sure of the name of the final song in my pick, or rather which name to use. The original “99 Luftballons,” or the name of the seminal 1982 playground classic that I knew it as: “99 Red Balloons” by Nena. I’ve linked to both versions. Allegedly inspired by Nena’s guitarist, Carlos Karges, watching red balloons being released during a West Berlin Rolling Stones concert, and seeing them float towards East Berlin. The original song in German imagines the balloons being mistaken for UFOs, causing panic and triggering a war that lasts ninety-nine years. The English translation has the balloons mistaken for enemy aircraft by a faulty early warning system, which results in a nuclear war. Apparently the band never liked the English version, feeling it was too on the nose, and that they did not wish to be seen as a protest band. I’ll leave you to make up your own mind.
Part of the reason I chose to write Special Purposes: First Strike Weapon, and set it in 1987, was to work through all my teenaged nuclear war angst (and people think growing up under the oppression of social media is tricky!) When I finished Special Purposes and sent it to Dave, my editor, the worldwide political spectrum had changed. Brexit and Trump had considerably weakened Europe and the US in the face of what appears to be an expansionist Russia. War with China and Iraq was being discussed as a possibility. Dave drew a comparison with the subject matter of the book and current events. We both laughed awkwardly, and changed the subject.
Brace for impact Abaddonites! Special Purposes: First Strike Weapon, Gavin Smith’s explosive tale of dead but determined Russian Special Forces abroad in the US is out today*!
But what’s it all about, you cry? Well, read on pilgrim:
Special Purposes by Gavin Smith
1987, THE HEIGHT OF THE COLD WAR. For Captain Vadim Scorlenski and the rest of the 15th Spetsnaz Brigade, being scrambled to unfamiliar territory at no notice, without a brief or proper equipment, is more or less expected; but even by his standards, their mission to one of the United States’ busiest cities stinks…
World War III was over in a matter of hours, and Vadim and most of his squad are dead, but not done. What’s happened to them, and to millions of civilians around the world, goes beyond any war crime; and Vadim and his team – Skull, Mongol, Farm Boy, Princess, Gulag, the Fräulein and New Boy – won’t rest until they’ve seen justice done.
*In the UK, that is. US folks, you’ll have to wait until 11 April – we promise it’s worth the wait!