Smoke Over the Bosporus [fiction] Series, by Maciej Jonasz

Book 1: Return of the Ottomans
Book 2: The Cyprus Gamble
Book 3: The Strykers
Reviewed by Ty Bomba

In the real world, Turkey has in recent years careened from election to election, with each one – no matter the particulars of its outcome – generally working to move President Recep Tayyip Erdogan that much closer to becoming an Islamist dictator for life. Often now, he’s not even referred to by his western-style governmental titles: “strongman” is the term becoming the common descriptor for him our news media.

It’s easy to find news analysis, both printed and on video, bemoaning what appears to be Turkey’s unstoppable drift toward fundamentalism, thereby breaking it away from even a pretense of still belonging to the Western democratic cultural sphere. It’s much harder, though, to find any discussion of what all that might mean at ‘ground level’ across the region. In this growing series of near-future what-if speculative novels, author Maciej Jonasz (a longtime e-Friend of this writer) remedies that omission in a way both informative and entertaining.

In the first book, a rape committed by a Turkish migrant worker in Bulgaria sparks a mob to burn down a mosque in Sofia. The new Islamist regime in Turkey mobilizes for a war of revenge and conquest. As the Turks invade, the outnumbered Bulgarians fight desperately to hold them off while seeking help from a moribund NATO.

In the second book, with the Turks’ Bulgarian invasion stymied and a Kurdish insurgency broken out across eastern Anatolia, the Greeks decide the time has come for them to reclaim all of Cyprus. Special forces operatives are sent to help the Kurds, and an armored advance into Eastern Thrace toward Constantinople helps tie up the Turkish Army. Greek marines land on northern Cyprus's beaches, and Greece and Turkey are at fully at war.

In the third book, a US Stryker (medium armor) company at Incirlik air base gets drawn into the dangerous mission of helping evacuate American personnel from there and – even more precarious – keeping the nuclear weapons stored there from falling into the wrong hands. Their journey out of the country reads like a modern American Anabasis, as they cut their way to an over-the-beach evacuation. At the end we find out, despite the Stryker men’s best efforts, two bombs have gone missing, thereby setting the stage for the fourth (and still forthcoming) book in the series.

Jonasz writes exciting combat scenes and lots of them. If you’ve enjoyed this genre of military fiction by the likes of Tom Clancy, John Hackett, Ralph Peters, etc., you’ll feel at home here. Beyond style, Jonasz is always careful to include maps and unit-organizational diagrams for the battles he’s describing and the units fighting in them. That’s a welcome edition that makes following the tactical action much easier than would otherwise be the case. Highly recommended, and all are available on Amazon.

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