Sunday, June 1, 2014

Book Review Time: The Violent Century by Lavie Tidhar and Rising Sun, by Robert Conroy

It's a double feature of book reviews, this time around at Somerset House Press.
First up, The Violent Century, by Lavie Tidhar. Regular readers of this space will remember I said that I was at first uncertain if this book, by the author of the excellent Osama, was an alt-history piece.
Well, fortunately for us, it is. This is the story is of the 20th Century, as viewed through the eyes of a pair of supermen -literally ubermenschen, created in the 1930s by the explosion of a "quantum bomb"that also not incidentally, creates the new timeline.  The book's primary protagonists, Fogg and Oblivion- who work for a top-secret department of the British Government - use their superpowers to simply observe the happenings around them, but never seeming to realize, as according to quantum theory, that even the very act of passively observing has an effect. Fogg and Oblivion observe their way through a curiously altered 20th Century that still resembles ours closely enough for the reader - yet another observer- to draw their own conclusions. I'll add there's a very poignant scene towards the end of the book where the one of the super characters - none of them who age - observes that he "...doesn't know the language people speak... It's as if I'm in an alien world." As I get older, I'm beginning to know how he feels. Although The Violent Century may seem somewhat inaccessible for some readers due to the style of dialogue Tindal uses, it is a worthwhile read. In short:highly recommended.

Next up, is Robert Conroy's Rising Sun. I must admit I was pleasantly surprised here. Conroy delivers a rollicking, if plausible (always key around these parts) tale, based on the premise that the U.S. Navy lost its gambit at the Battle of Midway. Despite the overwhelming U.S. victory, Midway was a close-run thing; a lot closer than many suppose and Conroy uses this knife-edge of history to great advantage. The story revolves around Yamamoto's plan to attack the west coast of the United States following a Japanese victory at Midway to force the United States to the negotiating table. Of course, things don't go quite to plan. Recommended reading, especially for military alt-history fans.
Meanwhile, over the last month I've managed to pick up –wait-for it- five new books that I'll review in later posts. First, there's the paperback edition of Storm Surge, the latest edition of Taylor Anderson's long-running and excellent Destroyermen series that I'm just finishing off and will review in my next posting. Second, there's Plan D, by Simon Urban, that posits life in a present-day Berlin where the wall never fell. Third, there's Dominion, by C.J. Samson which takes place set in an early '50s Britain that ten years previously, signed an armistice with Hitler. Forth, there’s V-S Day, by Allen Steele, which takes place in the author’s “Alternate Space” series. The book itself is a rewrite and expansion of the author’s short story, “Goddard’s People.” The fifth and final book is by Robert Conroy, 1920: America’s Great War, which seems to be a spiritual sequel to the author’s 1901. Some very heavy-duty summer reading ahead, I think. All of these books look like very interesting reads, and I will be sure to let you know what I think. Stay tuned.

Finally, a couple of postings ago in this space, I ruminated on how it my life would've been if I'd gone to work in an auto plant and married that girl from high school. Well, apparently, an old acquaintance of mine from primary school is living my dream. A few weeks ago, I got a friend request from him over Facebook. We'd been out of touch for years, but here's the kicker: he's working in the auto plant, due to retire in five years on a fully indexed auto worker's pension and is happily married with two adult children.
Like I said, living my dream. No-one's life is perfect and I'm sure his wasn't. It just a little too close to my own personal what -if fantasy for comfort.

In the meantime, have a look at my own books, Elvis Saves JFK! for just 99 cents and War Plan Crimson, A Novel of Alternate History, for $2.99 and now The Key to My Heart, also $2.99 (all are free to preview). All books -- which are already on Smashword's premium distribution list -- are also available through such fine on-line retailers such as Sony, Chapters Indigo, Barnes & Noble and Apple's iTunes Store.   Thanks.