Saturday, March 30, 2013

A Review: Himmler's War, by Robert Conroy

Sorry about the delay in this month’s entry, but here we are, better late than never, right?

I honestly don’t know what to make of this book, Himmler's War. First, the author, Robert Conroy, has done some very creditable work in this genre, including his first novel, 1901. What puzzles me is that with a promising start, this book can end, well,  so lukewarmly.  Let me explain.The book starts out with an interesting take on a familiar World Word Two alt-history premise where Hitler is killed and Himmler takes charge after the accidental killing of Hitler by a lucky hit from an American bomber (We saw a similar concept a few years ago in Dobson’s and Niles’ superior Fox on the Rhine, where the SS boss takes charge after the assassination of Hitler).

Fine. I can take that as a point of difference. I can even accept when Himmler strikes a separate peace with Stalin (also seen in Fox on the Rhine). In this book, however, the deal is slightly sweetened for the Soviets (I won’t say how), who give the Nazis a couple of thousand T-34 tanks to bash the Western Allies with.  I can accept all that, plus the other goodies Conroy throws at us to keep the plot boiling in a satisfying manner. It could’ve very well happened that way.

Unfortunately, I do have a major bone to pick with Conroy. And that unfortunately, has to do with a central point to his plot: that the Nazis, as thin on the ground with resources as they were by the summer of 1944, could build and deploy an atom bomb by the spring of 1945 (I don’t consider this a spoiler as there is this huge mushroom cloud-thingy on the cover of the book).  By that time, the Nazis had already thrown in the towel on the atomic bomb, conceding that while it was a technical possibility, they simply didn’t have the resources or the manpower to pull it together. When you compare it with the four and half years and billions of 1940s dollars spent on the Manhattan Project, you get an idea of what it actually took to develop a workable atomic weapon. (A better and more plausible alt-history Nazi atomic weapons program is in The Trinity Paradox, by Kevin J. Anderson and Doug Beason, where an anti nuclear activist from the 1980s travels back in time to 1943, and unwittingly passes secrets along to a Nazi mole who enables the Germans to develop a “dirty bomb” that they drop on New York City.)

So in the final analysis, while Himmler’s War is a rollicking read, it suffers from this lack of historical plausibility that makes for so much of the real great alternative history books and makes this book not so satisfying as it should be.  There’s no doubt that Conroy can write; however, he has yet to deliver us, in my opinion, a worthy successor to 1901.

Meanwhile, you can help out a poor unemployed writer by purchasing both Elvis Saves JFK! for just 99 cents and War Plan Crimson, A Novel of Alternate History, for $2.99 (both are free to preview). Both books are also available through such fine on-line retailers such as Chapters Indigo, Barnes & Noble and Apple's iTunes Store.  And if you’re looking for an experienced marketing communications guy, do me a favor and have a look here. Thanks.

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