Saturday, February 22, 2014

One From My Bookshelves: Reviewing Norman Spinrad’s The Iron Dream

What if Hitler wrote The Lord of the Rings? I mean a really racist twisted version of The Lord of the Rings?

Then you might get Lord of the Swastika, the book-within-a-book, featured in Norman Spinrad’s 1969 classic, The Iron Dream.  

Controversial when it was first published, The Iron Dream’s backdrop for the story in a story is that Communists overthrew the German Government in the ‘30s, leading to domination of Europe in 1948 by the Greater Soviet Union. World War Two never happened in this world. Only the United States and the militarist Japanese Empire remain standing.  In this world, Adolf Hitler arrives as refugee in the United States and earns a reputation as an author of pulp fiction of the thud and blunder variety.

Before dying in 1955, Hitler completes his masterwork, Lord of the Swastika, which is an essentially a sideways look at Hitler’s conquests in our world.  The novel’s six foot tall, broad shouldered, blonde-haired, blue eyed protagonist, Feric Jaggar, is Hitler; Helder is Germany; the Doms are the Soviets; and the Zind, are well… it flows from there.  Of course, being Hitler’s fantasy, it doesn’t end in a bunker in 1945 as he goes onto colonize the stars with a race of SS Aryan clones.

Spinrad strikes the perfect note by keeping within the “book within a book” conceit, with “an afterward to the second edition” by literary critic Homer Whipple. Whipple, a perfectly drawn character in his own right, is quick to point out every fetishist and phallic image in Hitler's paranoid little fantasy, and undercuts Hitler’s prose and philosophy to the quick.

As a consequence of its (dare I say it again?) controversial nature, The Iron Dream is hard to find, even being banned in West Germany for a period of time. However, it is well worth the read. In fact, it is a tour de force of the alt-history genre and especially of the ever-popular Nazis-win-the-war subgenre. So look for it online or at your local used bookstore. 

Meantime, I’m continuing to read Lavie Tidhar’s The Violent Century and I am enjoying it. I’ll have a full review in a future blog. 

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.

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