Someone Else's War: A Novel of Russia and America
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In December 1993, Pentagon weapons designer and engineer Doctor Olivia Tolchin attends a Washington, DC arms show. She is accomplished, professionally stymied and personally drifting. Then the senior Russian military intelligence officer in America, Major General Getmanov, approaches her and makes her an offer she can't refuse. A love, politics, and war story set in Russia in the 1990s. More
It is December 1993 in Washington, DC at an arms show. Pentagon weapons designer and engineer Doctor Olivia Tolchin is drifting. She is at the conference to network and to interview, to take the next step in her life.
In a cliché, she is a brilliant, beautiful blonde.
Professionally, she is stymied, on the verge of allowing herself to be co-opted by the Military-Industrial-Congressional complex, a far more lucrative life than her current one at Los Alamos. She is a highly-regarded engineer, worth a great deal of money to a defense contractor who could use her to sell sensors for urban combat to the Pentagon: fragile, exotic and hopelessly overpriced, while she wants to create reasonably-priced, reliable, good-enough. In the aftermath of the Cold War, she knows that this is more and more the defense contracting game. Playing it would give her access to better labs, equipment and personnel. It would make her a wealthy woman, while the betrayal, of herself and her country’s best interests, would embitter her deeply.
Personally, Olivia was badly hurt in a light plane crash. A licensed instructor pilot, she learned too late how reckless her student was. In the instant when she chose to save her student’s life as well as her own, and then during all the months of therapy that followed, she fundamentally chose to live without compromise. By the time of the arms show, she is still unable to run but she can now hike again. Her lover didn’t wait to experience the changes in her character: he left her while she was still hospitalized. She settled out of court with the wealthy lawyer who was her student. Between the settlement, her family money, and her personal ability, she is more than financially secure. There is a great deal she could do with the rest of her life: it doesn’t have to be defense. She has many options.
She is pondering these facts of her life in a defense contractor’s hospitality suite at the arms show when the senior Russian military intelligence officer in America, Major General Getmanov, approaches her. He tells her simply: you and your work are of great interest to us. Although we are not yet friends, we are no longer enemies—but we share common enemies. Call me if you want your work to matter. She does. Late that night, walking and talking, he makes her an offer. Come work for us, he says. Be our Walter Christie, the tank specialist whose ideas revolutionized our armor designs and helped us win World War II. She counters in a way that strips him of his tradecraft: not here, that would make me a criminal or worse. In Russia. Where I will skip all the phony testing and benchmarks, and within a quarter, maybe two, go straight to operational testing and evaluation in the field.
In the cauldron that is the First Chechen War, a cauldron made infinitely worse by a Russian Army collapsing into the particular horror of military ineptitude.
The last thing Olivia does before she gets on that plane to Russia is to tell the CIA what she’s going to do, and why. It’s not a promising meeting. Her CIA contact blows her off as drunk, drug-addled, probably promiscuous, delusional and grandiose, but, he promises her, he’ll write a memo. Do that, she tells him: gelding.
Of course that memo is sold. Back to the Russians. Where it threatens to destroy not just Olivia but all those she has come to love and who have come to trust her.
A love, politics, and war story set in Boris Yeltsin’s corrupt and violent Russia of the 1990s.