Dr Strangelove Summary

Peter George

Dr Strangelove

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Dr Strangelove Summary

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Dr. Strangelove: Or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb is a 1968 Cold War-set military satire by British author Peter George, taking place both in the corridors of power in Washington and the field of war, as a madman threatens to turn the Cold War hot by launching a nuclear strike on Russia. This is the novelization of the famous and critically acclaimed 1964 film directed by Stanley Kubrick and starring Peter Sellers and George C. Scott. That movie was itself based on an earlier novel by Peter George, Red Alert, which featured similar elements of a nuclear escalation between the two superpowers as the result of a rogue General, but had a much darker tone and less of the film and novelization’s famous absurdity. Dr. Strangelove explores themes of warfare, power, the culture of the military, patriotism, and the mindsets that were pervasive during the Cold War. Although the novelization is not as widely known as the film or Red Alert, it is still sought out and read by fans of the movie. The Kubrick film is considered one of his finest works and has repeatedly been named one of the best comedies ever made. It was selected as one of the first films preserved in the National Film Registry in 1989.

Dr. Strangelove: Or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb begins by looking at the mind of Brigadier General Jack D. Ripper, a decorated Air Force general who, unfortunately, has been driven quite insane with paranoia by the events of the Cold War. Having become convinced that there is a plot by the “Commies” to “sap and contaminate our precious bodily fluids,” he decides to take action unilaterally and launch a preemptive strike on the USSR at the height of tensions between the two nations. He does this by ordering the fleet of B-52 bombers under his command to drop all their hydrogen bombs on Soviet territory. This horrifies his second-in-command, Group Captain Lionel Mandrake, but Mandrake has no power to stop him. When word breaks of Ripper’s plan in the White House War Room, President Merkin Muffley is enraged. He demands that his advisors, including General Buck Turgidson and the eccentric former Nazi scientist Dr. Strangelove, come up with ways to stop the bombers from delivering their payload. However, the only way to stop the bombing is the recall code for the bombers and the only person who knows it is Ripper.

Meanwhile, as the powers-that-be try to solve the problem, the bombers are being led to their destination by Major TJ “King” Kong and his loyal soldiers. They have received their orders from Ripper and are fully on board with their mission. Ripper and his men, along with a hesitant Mandrake, come under attack at their base by the US Military. The government is trying to capture Ripper to get the recall code, but Ripper gets away. Muffley calls the Soviet ambassador and tries to keep them from retaliating, even helping Soviet Premier Kissov shoot down some of the fleet of bombers. However, Kissov reveals that the Soviets have built a doomsday machine that will launch enough missiles to destroy all life on Earth if a nuclear bomb hits the USSR. Major Kong and his crew avoid being shot down and continue towards their target, staying low to avoid detection. Doctor Strangelove presents a plan to Muffley for a last-ditch survival of humanity if the worst happens, sending a select group of people underground to live in shelters made out of converted mineshafts.

Although Ripper and his men are able to fight off the military for a while, they are eventually overrun, and Ripper shoots himself to prevent being tortured for the recall code. However, Mandrake is able to piece the recall code together by looking at Ripper’s paranoid rambles that he scribbled down on paper. The recall code is sent, and everyone in the war room celebrates as the surviving B-52s turn around before reaching their target. However, Premier Kissov calls and reports that one bomber is unaccounted for. “King” Kong, a true believer in Ripper’s mad scheme, has ignored the recall code and charged on ahead to Moscow, where he attempts to drop the bomb. His bomb bay doors jam, and Kong chooses to force them open himself and ride the bomb down to its target, sacrificing his own life in the process. As the bomb drops and nuclear missiles are launched in response, Dr. Strangelove watches, wondering about humanity’s future in the shelters as the end of the world as we know it looms.

Peter Bryan George was a British author, most famous for his 1958 Cold War thriller Red Alert, originally published under the title Two Hours to Doom. In all, he wrote nine novels under both his own name and the pen names “Peter Bryant” and “Bryan Peters.” A World War II veteran who later re-enlisted, many of his novels dealt with themes of warfare and nuclear war in particular.