Free Prime Fail-SafeAuthor Eugene Burdick –

Something Has Gone Wrong A Group Of American Bombers Armed With Nuclear Weapons Is Streaking Past The Fail Safe Point, Beyond Recall, And No One Knows Why Their Destination MoscowIn A Bomb Shelter Beneath The White House, The Calm Young President Turns To His Russian Translator And Says, I Think We Are Ready To Talk To Premier Kruschchev Not Far Away, In The War Room At The Pentagon, The Secretary Of Defense And His Aides Watch With Growing Anxiety As The Luminous Blips Crawl Across A Huge Screen Map High Over The Bering Strait In A Large Vindicator Bomber, A Colonel Stares In Disbelief At The Attack Code Number On His Fail Safe Box And Wonders If It Could Possibly Be A MistakeFirst Published In , When America Was Still Reeling From The Cuban Missile Crisis, Fail Safe Reflects The Apocalyptic Attitude That Pervaded Society During The Height Of The Cold War, When Disaster Could Have Struck At Any Moment As Countries Develop Nuclear Capabilities And The Potential For New Enemies Lurks On The Horizon, Fail Safe And Its Powerful Issues Continue To Respond

10 thoughts on “Fail-Safe

  1. says:

    The world is no longer man s theatre Man has been made into a helpless spectator The two evil forces he has created science and the state have combined into one monstrous body We re at the mercy of our monster The Big Board from the 1964 movie.As I was making my way through the public school system in the 1970s, they were still doing duck and cover drills In retrospect, of course, these drills were absolutely worthless except as an effective way of convincing all of us that our lives were dangling at the fingertips of madmen Getting under our desks and covering our heads with our hands as a way to survive an atomic blast is about as effective as holding up a tissue in front of a speeding bullet heading towards our heart It took me years and much reading on my own to undo most of the brainwashing that was just part of our normal psychotic relationship with the Soviet Union My impression of Russians were that they were deranged lunatics and that our strong military was the only thing standing between them and world domination The Cold War.The Nuclear Weapon Buildup Gazillions of dollars were spent by both countries Paranoia was behind the wheel with the gas pedal mashed to the floor Both militaries used inflated numbers of the other s strengths to keep blackmailing their politicians for and money This book came out in 1962 The timing could not have been better The Cuban Missile Crisis in that same year gave the world a very genuine taste of what had previously just been academic conjecture The end of the world was very real This book was an instant best seller The copy I appropriated from the library was a fifteenth printing I m sure it went into many printings than that Frankly, the book depicts a terrifying scenario Being a child of The Cold War, it certainly pressed all the right buttons for me To those who have grown up with illusions of safety, it is ludicrous for most of them to even think that something as crazy as a Nuclear Exchange could ever happen To those who don t understand the historical significance of this novel, they could think this scenario to bewell unbelievable To those of us who lived through it and felt the haunting spectre of war hovering over every international crisis, this book confirms every worse fear that we experienced while living in a nuclear unstable world In the book they talk a lot about Fail Safe Fail safe means that a device will not endanger lives or property when it fails The plot begins with a blown fuse that sends an errant message to a bomber group hovering in the designated Fail Safe area Computers have replaced men, and protocols are in place that are based off those same paranoias that sustained the whole Cold War Once the GO signal is given it is almost impossible to stop the process from proceeding I watched the excellent 1964 movie right after reading the book Being a natural optimist, even though I knew the ending from the book, I was still hoping for an eleventh hour reprieve The book and the movie it follows the book very closely both left me shaken The decisions of the world leaders, I can guarantee, will shock and surprise you The book is compelling especially in the last hundred pages, but the movie might even be so from start to finish The dark, stark black and white footage lends a feeling of desolation to the actions of the characters The director snaps close ups of eyes widening, of sweat glistening on skin, and of lips saying words that are devastating in their impact One of the interesting and abhorrent characters in the book is Professor Groteschele played very well by Walter Matthau in the movie , who shares end of the world scenarios at cocktail parties with the intention of leaving those listening to him shocked and disturbed The prospect of war is a punchline for him Knowing you have to die, imagine how fantastic and magical it would be to have the power to take everyone else with you Groteschele said The swarms of them out there, the untold billions of them, the ignorant masses of them, the beautiful ones, the artful ones, the friends, the enemiesall of them and their plans and hopes And they are murderees born to be murdered and don t know it And the person with his finger on the button is the one who knows and who can do it Walter Matthau conveys smug very well.He is smug in his objectivity War is a series of calculations that ignore the human cost as long as of us survive than those who oppose us When soldiers follow orders, even immoral orders, they have to become less than human Groteschele fears our best intentions the most What frightened us was not so much the madman problem, Groteschele was saying, but its opposite at the last moment someone might refuse to drop the bombs A single act of revulsion could foil the whole policy of graduated deterrents With six United States Vindicator bombers flying towards Moscow with a large enough payload of atomic bombs to wipe six cities the size of Moscow off the map, the tension continues to ratchet up as the President tries to keep Nikita Khrushchev, The Soviet Premier, from launching all out war Henry Fonda as the President in the movie.It may have just been an accident, a horrible accident, but still with paranoia flowing freely it is difficult for both sides to convince themselves that this is not just a trick perpetrated to create an advantage in war Everyone involved is trying to decide what exactly is true and what is subterfuge As the bombers approach Moscow, the President orders his military advisors to tell the Russians the weaknesses in the Vindicator s defenses General Bogan felt his finger tips shaking against his trousers He felt for a moment as if he were being exposed to some strange torture some spikelike split of his allegiance some rupturing of his life As the Vindicator planes score victories, it is hard for the United States military men not to cheer, even though the fate of the world rests on the ability of the Russians to shoot all the planes down The ballooning tension kept my gut churning and my mind spinning with all the potential outcomes The ending was not what I expected at all The book was good The movie was even better I felt like the experience was enhanced by reading the book and watching the movie, but I would highly recommend anyone who is interested in this era or fascinated by human behavior under pressure to, at the very least, watch the movie If you wish to see of my most recent book and movie reviews, visit also have a Facebook blogger page at

  2. says:

    Love the front cover graphics on Fail Safe, admittedly that s what drew me to it, but this war thriller is just as vivid and evocative in its content as it is in its cover It s an exciting story that will have any reader questioning the world around them.

  3. says:

    Thank you demotivationalposters I couldn t have said it better myself.Fail Safe was originally written in 1962 a time of terrible uncertainty when it comes to nukes and the cold war That s the same year as the Cuban Missile Crisis This was also the height of the MAD doctrine and while maybe classroom teachers were betting on the desks, I think I d be betting on the bomb.It s difficult to recreate feelings in history We resort to relying on our own experiences and perspective and casting them on past events Not having lived through the Cold War, I apply a muted post 9 11 fear over the entire era to capture the mood But they can only be similar Not having lived through it, I can never know Knowing the outcome of the Cold War, it may be easy to trivialize its place in history as inconsequential but that s just Monday morning quarterbacking.Fail Safe does a fantastic job of realizing and capturing the fears of the moment in the moment as well as outlining the consequences for humanity The authors of the book were both Poli Sci professors at various prestigious schools i.e Harvard, University of California, Johns Hopkins, etc you get the point They probably knew what they were talking about BUT Fail Safe wasn t written in some intellectual prose mumbo jumbo that the Average Joe layperson ahem me couldn t understand It was fast paced and riveting.

  4. says:

    I don t know what the President is doing, but whatever it is he d better be right Khrushchev isn t going to sit around forever and watch those planes move in on Moscow The whole thing rests on the President s ability to persuade Khrushchev it was an accident If he doesn t, then we re going to have all out, 100 per cent, slam bang, hell bent war That s right, isn t it, General Congressman Raskob, Fail Safe, page 206For those who are familiar with the story of Fail Safe due to the 1964 film directed by the legendary Sidney Lumet and starring Henry Fonda in an unforgettable performance as a U.S president who finds himself in a nuclear crisis with the Soviet Union, the book is much like the film but delves deeper into the central themes as well as some of the main characters psyches and background.The story explores not only the ideological foundation of the Cold War conflict of 1945 1989 and its contribution to creating the immediate crisis but also the related political, psychological and technological foundations On the political level, the question is implied throughout why do ideological differences in how to organize one s society have to mean confrontation that puts all of humanity at risk as opposed to a live and let live approach As the US president and Soviet premier openly referred to as Khrushchev attempt to deal with the crisis, it is clear that a psychological spiral of long standing mutual distrust and perceived escalations have made the situation worse, creating circumstances that compound the crisis as it is learned that an understandably suspicious Soviet military leadership has already jammed radio communications on the US nuclear bombers that are on their way to attack Moscow as the result of a mistaken go order The jamming has prevented the US leadership from communicating the error and an abort mission order to the pilots.This poisoned atmosphere of distrust leads directly to the horrendous decisions made to resolve the crisis later on.Continue reading review at

  5. says:

    S.O.S , Dr Strangelove , Fail Safe , , , , , , , , , , , , , 1964 .

  6. says:

    This novel was the 6 bestseller of 1962 It was originally serialized in three weekly issues of the Saturday Evening Post in October, 1962, during the Cuban Missile Crisis It was an eerie and discomforting read covering a possible breakdown of technology leading to nuclear war.Of course, that was the fear I lived under in high school That some mad man would push the button and within 24 hours we would all be fried and gone.The book is liberally loaded with technical terms and nuclear gear, systems, etc Much was made of the psychology behind military commanders It gives a look into the secret bunkers and procedures for dealing with threats, attacks, and technical hitches All of that was as fascinating to me as it must have been to the American public at the time.The scenes where the President obviously Kennedy though his name was never used and Krushchev are on the top secret phone line working out a deal required a lot of suspension of disbelief on my part It was pretty far from what I read in the Kennedy biography last year The King Solomon like deal that Kennedy made in this book was as melodramatic a climax as I have ever read.I gained a new appreciation for what every President since Truman has had hanging over his head like a Damocles sword Imagine holding the power to bring about the end of the world I am still a pacifist, I still believe in nuclear disarmament, but I have got a realistic idea about the possibilities of my dreams for our planet and mankind coming true.Hands down the most relevant book I have read this year.

  7. says:

    Before there was Tom Clancy, there was books like this guesses at doomsday scenarios and nuclear Armageddon brought about by the increasing escalation in the Cold War Written in 1962, this novel, emblematic of what became an entire genre, attempt to warn us of our own impending destruction because of the out of control nuclear arms race that existed at the time While it s very preachy, it raises some good points and, if nothing else, provides a valuable look at the mindset of the time period.The basic plot is that a group of bombers on a fairly routine mission, standing by to attack Russia in case anything goes awry, fails to receive a cancel order, and proceeds to begin an attack course to launch nukes on Moscow The majority of the action plays out in the now familiar setting of secret government war rooms with big map boards, electronics, and giant conference table full of generals arguing about options, while the President s hand hovers over a button But the novel also includes characters like nuclear scientists and military theorists on both sides of the nuclear argument Some of the most memorable scenes are of debates between those that argue for a strike first policy versus those favoring disarmament Burdick and Wheeler show a strong fmailiarity with the various arguments from the period, and take time to really think through their outcomes, putting various doctrinal stances into the mouths of the characters.This becomes the main flaw of the book, mainly that the characters are simply non persons designed to either fulfill a certain plot role, or to spew a certain ideology Since the main point of the book is to discuss and critique the various arguments of nuclear deterrent as a theory and strategy, this makes sense The only problem with this approach is that the book barely qualifies as a novel at this point.The other fatal flaw of the book is how incredibly preachy it is I will refrain from spoilers, since the ending of the book is incredibly eyebrow raising But thematically, the main thrust ends up being a very anti technology stance wherein humanity is chastised for our horrible choices and self destructive tendencies The dialog becomes so over the top, cliched and preachy that all semblance of fiction is lost as the characters just become mouthpieces for the author s polemic against the engineers of the Cold War.The book will appeal to fans of military history or of military fiction in general The authors demonstrate an accurate knowledge of the technology of the time, although some admitted liberties are taken The book provides a revealing insight into the mindset of the 60s, where fear of nuclear war ran rampant The idea that humanity was on the brink of annihilation at any point, which could be set off from any misstep, is a powerful notion There s a sense of frustration and confusion that pervaded the period, which this book accurately captures In that sense, while it may not stand the test of time as a work of fiction, it does still provide a valuable window into the past.

  8. says:

    Read the book, as with a few others, shortly after seeing the movie the first time it was shown on TV in the 60 s As usual there was a bit in the book than would fit on the screen and parts that are nearly unfilmable It is certainly a striking premise that a president would do what the fictional president does in this book to avert an all out exchange, a prospect that only continued to grow in horror for the next twenty years or so after the book came out as the stockpile of warheads rapidly grew and increasingly sophisticated methods of delivery were developed with and better submarines in addition to ICBM s and all combined with MIRV technology The story line here is a proper use of literary license but I do not believe even under circumstances exactly equivalent to the setting here allowing that now it is nearly all about missiles, the B 58 s being long retired that the chief executive on either side would solve the problem as is done in Fail Safe But it gives a strong story line while actual aspects of the cold war threat of large scale nuclear war are examined and the dramatic plot highlights the sort of bind we could easily find ourselves suddenly facing if something important goes wrong or even our opponent just a bit jumpy that day there was an episode that was too close for comfort in 1983 The movie was remarkably faithful to the book even attempting to represent the most unfilmable of all the books threads, the matador dream of General Black, with great visual skill but without narrative success If I had not read the book I would never have figured out what the dream meant from the movie Still the sacrifice made by Black is still very clear in both book and movie The main thing missing was some extra detail about the cold war and about the supporting characters, in particular, the civilian expert played by Walter Matthau in the movie , a Jew in the U.S army who took pride in intimidating the captured Nazi soldiers he interrogated and held the passivity of European Jewry the Frank family in particular in contempt for him Warsaw was too little too late , who is the main hard liner recommending that the accident be exploited to launch a long overdue all out first strike, in his view, making the best of the situation in the face of inevitable war in the future.There are some who have posted online who think the portrayal of right wing characters in this book to exaggerated or preachy I disagree They decent composites of a few well placed real life figures of that time who genuinely believed, and sometimes said so publicly, that a first strike while a large numerical and delivery advantage was still in hand was overdue and that if in the smoking ruins of civilization there were two of them for every one of the enemy it was a victory, and one well worth winning Unfortunately, the book was not indulging a joke, a satire, or much of an exaggeration or caricature.

  9. says:

    I think that On the Beach, Alas Babylon, and Fail Safe, are, in essence, a bit of a trilogy You have the beginning, the middle, and the end I liked Fail Safe, it gives you a lot to think about, and although it was written in the 50 s I still think it s relevant We do put entirely too much faith in machines, and recently we have had the advent of social media to throw into the mix We bow down to our technological gods and worship our iPhones and Alexas The idea of a nuclear war being started by technological error seems likely today than it ever would in the 50 s, so I think this book only really becomes MORE relevant As technology becomes advanced and complex it just leads to things that could go wrong I wonder how many times so many things have gone wrong at once that something like this could have happened

  10. says:

    Holy shit.I don t think I could write a coherent review if I tried Not many books actually have me gasping or yelling Oh my god out loud For a book written nearly 60 years ago, it s still packing a hell of a punch.