Sunday, April 9, 2017

Book Review: Three Books by Robert Conroy

Apologies once again for missing yet another posting. Unfortunately, life has caught up with me again and I am finding myself out of work. It’s been a rough month (If you need a good corporate communications guy, look no further).

I know some time ago and for a long time since I had mentioned that I was going to discuss three books by Robert Conroy: 1882: Custer in Chains, Germanica, and Red Inferno: 1945. Unfortunately, these will likely be the last books I review by the author, who died in 2014. In the past, readers may know that I have been decidedly mixed in by attitude towards Conroy, with my strongest feelings that his characters tended to be one-dimensional.

Fans of Conroy will be delighted to know of the three books, 1882: Custer in Chains, is the best of the lot and likely the best of Conroy’s I’ve read in some time. The point of divergence is that George Armstrong Custer not only survives Battle of the Little Big Horn in 1876, but actually wins it, only to be propelled into the office of President in 1882, a role that he is totally unsuited for.  Looking to establish a legacy and some colonies, he goes to war with Spain over Cuba, some 16 years earlier than in our timeline.  I won’t give away too much more, except to say, this is a demonstration of the type of superior alternate history Conroy could do and should be remembered for. Historical research and characterizations are first-rate. Recommended. 

Unfortunately, I wish I could say the same about Germanica.  The book, which takes place in 1945 at the end of the war in Europe and is based upon fears by the Allies that the Nazis would establish an Alpine Redoubt, feels like I’ve read it before.  Too many evil Nazis, too many plucky resistance fighters, and too many brave Allied (read: American – sorry) soldiers.  I guess maybe I’ve read and reviewed too many alt-history books like this.  It doesn’t seem too original. Maybe I need to stay away from this stuff.

The third book, Red Inferno: 1945 is definitely an improvement.  Like Germanica, it also takes place at the end of the war in Europe, but its point of divergence occurs when a shooting war breaks out between the Western Allies and the Soviet Union.  The book is well-written and the plot hums along nicely. I can say that it appears Conroy is more in his element here. Characterizations are more in depth that in some of the author’s earlier novels.  This should appeal to fans of Conroy and of military alt-history looking for a something a little different.

Up Next:
Over the next couple of months, I’ll have a review of the five-episode miniseries SS-GB and then, after that, the final novel in Terry Pratchett and Stephen Baxter’s Long Earth series, The Long Cosmos. Thanks for reading and stay tuned.

Meanwhile, you can help out a poor unemployed writer by purchasing 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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