Saturday, November 5, 2016

Book Review: Bombs Away, by Harry Turtledove

Harry Turtledove is back with another fresh look at our times through the lens of alternate history.  This time, he asks what if the Cold War – most specifically the Korean War – got hot? In truth, it almost did. In our history, General Douglas MacArthur publically petitioned President Harry Truman to use nuclear weapons in Korea to after Chinese positions just inside China.

Wisely, in our history, Truman turned down MacArthur’s request. The request for nuclear weapons was one of the many clashes between Truman and MacArthur that eventually led to MacArthur being fired as commander of UN forces in Korea.

However, in Bombs Away, the first of his three-part Hot War trilogy, Turtledove posits that MacArthur’s request made against a Korean situation that was more desperate.  With no way out, Truman accedes to the general’s wishes.

Both the United States and the Soviet Union began trading cities in a drawn-out nuclear exchange, much as described by cold war theorist Herman Khan (one of the real-life models for the character of Dr. Strangelove) suggested might happen.  Meanwhile, conventional fighting breaks out in Europe as the Red Army begins its drive across Germany and to the Rhine.  The action unfolds in a frighteningly plausible fashion.

Indeed, Turtledove has picked possibly the last moment that mankind might’ve been able to survive an atomic war with comparatively low-yield nuclear weapons only in the hands of the two superpowers, and the only delivery method being, for the most part, slow propeller-driven bombers.  Work on both ICBMs and far more powerful thermonuclear weapons was under way but had not yet produced anything far from useful.

As befitting any of his multivolume works, Turtledove presents us a wide and diverse cast of characters, ranging from the high and mighty to the soldiers on the front line and civilians caught in the crossfire. It’s to his continual credit that he does not lose track of any of his characters. In a very real way, Bombs Away is a counterpart to the author’s other examination of the same time period, Joe Steel (reviewed earlier in this blog).

Upshot: highly recommended. I will be looking forward to reading the next volume in the series, Fall Out, once it’s out in paperback (remember, I pay for my books).

What’s next?
Next month, I will be reviewing the most recent book in Charles Stross’ the Laundry Files series, The Annihilation Score. Following that, I’ll be exploring a trio of Robert Conroy books: 1882: Custer in Chains, Germanica, and Red Inferno: 1945.

Meanwhile, you can  purchase 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.

No comments:

Post a Comment