Sunday, November 9, 2014

Book Review, Plan D, by Simon Urban

It may seem meaningful that I’m reviewing Plan D on the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. Like many people of a certain age (how I hate that term, but there it is) I remember watching Berliners – East and West – first dance on the hated wall, and then brick by brick begin to tear it down on live television to the breathless play-by-play of network news anchors.

Fall of the Berlin Wall, photographer unknown, reproduced by Lear21
Those few brief hours separate the world we inhabit from the very plausible world the novel’s protagonist, Martin Wegnener, a detective inspector in the East Berlin people’s police inhabits. It’s 2011: East Berlin, and by extension East Germany is barely limping along, a failed state in all but name. Something resembling perestroika, “revitalization,” which was a limited success, occurred two decades ago, which resulted in the Wall staying up.  But now, on the eve of all-important economic consultations between East and West Germany, one of the architects of revitalization is found hanging dead from a pipeline.  Evidence points to the Stasi, which was supposedly shut down in the reforms of the late ‘80s. 

Wegner enters a richly detailed world in which he trusts no one. Plan D is more than a police procedural, much more than a slam-bang paint-by-numbers alt-history “this is where it all changed and aren’t we clever” book, where the reader is thrust in a gritty world of shadows and lies.  
Urban presents us with a well crafted, but at times demanding novel. But the reward, with its fleshed out and engaging plot along and its fully-developed characters, is well worth that price of admission.  Wegner, as benefitting most cops is on the cynical side, without being too hard-boiled, also has a chink in his armor in the form of his ex-girlfriend, who may or may not be what she seems to be. 

Both Urban and Wegner are our perfect guides to this gray world that could’ve been that sits just across the looking glass from us. Plan D and its ultimate conclusion is a tour-de-force.

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.