Here at Post-Apocalyptic.com, we tend to focus on “all the latest end-of-the-world trends”. But with over 100 years of post-apocalyptic content available, very few fans of the genre are familiar with every single book, movie, or TV show ever made, so every so often it’s also worth taking time to look back at the “classics”.
Today I treated myself to a one-two punch of good old fashioned cold war-era nuclear war goodness. Well, good in a fictional sense, at least, not if you’re one of the tens of millions vaporized in an actual full scale nuclear war.
I finished today’s nuke-fest with a re-watch of By Dawn’s Early Light from 1990. I’ve seen it several times before, of course, but it had been a while. Today was the perfect time to re-visit it because I started the day by finally getting to finish the novel that the film is based on, Trinity’s Child by William Prochnau.
I’m a bit of a broken record as I keep repeating the fact that 80s nuclear war is my favorite type of post-apocalyptic scenario. Testament, The Day After, and of course, Threads are the standards when it comes to post-nuclear war stories, but there aren’t that many high quality stories that depict the waging of the war itself.
Prochnau’s Trinity’s Child from 1983 is exactly that. Rather than focusing on the effects of the war on ordinary people, it instead tells the story of those who are fighting the war. We get B-52 bomber crews, generals, and presidents (yes, plural), some of whom are willing to risk everything if it means they “win”, while others are doing their best to try to reign in the destruction.
We start with the report of missiles approaching the U.S. Russia says that the attack was launched by accident, and the U.S. President is given three choices – accept the limited attack, respond in kind, or retaliate in full, which would escalate the conflict into full-blown war.
As you can imagine, circumstances conspire against those who try to limit the conflict and end the war as soon as possible.
As the author puts it in a passage from the book:
Among the elite few who had even a lottery player’s chance of altering the events, the miscalculations, and confusion were almost total. The were making assumptions that were logical but wrong, and acting on both. In fact, in all the beleaguered world, not a single person had the access or the wisdom to understand the swirl of events engulfing them.
The book really checked all the boxes for what I was in the mood for, and even includes several pages describing the devastation of multiple missile impacts to the islands of Hawaii (where I live.) It’s like it was written specifically for me.
I don’t want to spoil much of the story, so I’ll just say that if you you’re excited by mentions of SAC, NORAD, B-52s, Looking Glass, ICBMs, or nuclear launch codes, then you’ll enjoy the book.
Trinity’s Child does not appear to be available on Kindle yet, but a used hard copy won’t cost you much.
If you’re not much of a reader, or if you’re not sure about buying a nearly-40 year old book on my recommendation, you can start with the film version, By Dawn’s Early Light, an HBO original movie released in 1990.
The film featured a top-notch cast with Martin Landau as the president, Powers Booth and Rebecca De Mornay as B-52 pilots, and James Earl Jones as Alice (because he’s stationed on Looking Glass.) Jones was nominated for an Emmy for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Miniseries or a Special for his performance.
The film follows the events of the book fairly closely, with only a few minor exceptions. Reviews at the time praised its high production values and the realistic portrayal of military settings due to several scenes being filmed on actual military aircraft.
So whether, like me, you’re old enough to remember the Cold War and want a look back at what those days were like, or if you didn’t live through it yourself, but want to expand your personal post-apocalyptic library, you can’t go wrong with either the book or the film.
And I can even save you a rental fee. By Dawn’s Early Light is available in its entirety on YouTube if you’d like to check it out.Want to chat about all things post-apocalyptic? Join our Discord server here. You can also follow us by email here, on Facebook, or Twitter.