Saturday, 6 September 2008

Book Spotlight! 'The Man with the Iron Heart' - Harry Turtledove (Del Rey Books)

Here's a book that I've been picking up, flicking through a few pages and then putting down for some weeks now. It got to the point where I knew that I wasn't going to continue with it but I thought I'd point it out to anyone who's into the whole 'Alternative History' thing...

What's it about?

What if V-E Day didn’t end World War II in Europe? What if, instead, the Allies had to face a potent, even fanatical, postwar Nazi resistance? Such a movement, based in the fabled Alpine Redoubt, was in fact a real threat, ultimately neutralized by Germany’s flagging resources and squabbling officials. But had SS Obergruppenf├╝hrer Reinhard Heydrich, the notorious Man with the Iron Heart, not been assassinated in 1942, fate might have taken a different turn. We might likely have seen a German guerrilla war launched against the conquerors, presaging by more than half a century the protracted conflict with an unrelenting enemy that now engulfs the United States and its allies in Iraq. How might today’s clash of troops versus terrorists have played out in 1945?

In this imagined world, Nazi forces resort to unconventional warfare, using the quick and dirty tactics of terrorism–booby traps, time bombs, mortar and rocket strikes in the night, assassinations, even kamikaze-style suicide attacks–to overturn what seemed to be a decisive Allied victory. In November 1945, a truck bomb blows up the Nuremberg Palace of Justice, where high-ranking Nazi officials are about to stand trial for war crimes. None of the accused are there when the bomb goes off, but their judges, all of them present and accounted for, are annihilated. Worse acts of terrorism follow all over Europe.

Suddenly the Allies–especially the United States–must battle an invisible enemy and sacrifice countless lives in a long, seemingly pointless, unwinnable conflict. On the home front, patriotism corrodes, political fortunes are made and lost in the face of an antiwar backlash, and a once-proud country wonders how the righteous fight for freedom overseas has collapsed into a hopeless quagmire...

Who's the Author?

If you're reading a book where established history takes a sudden twist (Red Indians with Kalashnikov rifles or a World War Two suddenly interupted by an invasion of alien lizards) then the chances are that you're probably reading something written by Harry Turtledove. I don't know an awful lot about his stuff but a look in a few bookshops seems to suggest that he's pretty prolific with his writing...

So why aren't I reading this?

I did give this one a go but came away with the feeling that I needed to know a little more (ok, a lot more) about the period in question to actually appreciate how things had branched off.
The parallels with the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan were laid on a little thick as well and (from what I read) opinion appeared to come down very firmly in the 'war on terror is bad' camp. Maybe it is and maybe it isn't but I found myself resenting the lack of subtlety in the way Turtledove was getting his point across...
Not one that I'll be reading any further but figured it was worth a mention just in case it's your kind of thing... ;o)

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