Works like The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas had established a market for popular historical fiction and it was a crowded field. For instance, the Soviets developed a 'dead-hand' computerized launch system, so that if the Soviet (now Russian) leadership was killed in a sudden pre-emptive first strike then Russian ICBMs would launch automatically. ”The translation is by the Orientalist, Edward Fitzgerald. I was about halfway through when the thought struck me that if I didn't already care about these characters, I would have given up by now.
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