Sunday, October 14, 2018

Book Review: Armistice, by Harry Turtledove

It’s 1953 and Third World War has shuddered to a halt.

Armistice is the final volume in Harry Turtledove’s The Hot War trilogy. And as the title suggests (no spoilers here!) it is about the end of World War Three, which began in the first book of the trilogy, Bombs Away!, when U.S. President Harry Truman acceded to General Douglas MacArthur’s request to use atomic weapons during the Korean War. Truman’s decision proves catastrophic, as the war quickly escalates as bomb is traded for bomb and city for city.

Turtledove paints a picture of what is probably the most realistic and likely scenario of an atomic war being waged between the Soviet Union and the United States during the early ‘50s. 

The war is primarily being waged with slow-moving propeller-driven bombers delivering for the most part, comparatively low-yield fission-type nuclear weapons.  While capable of taking out a city, the damage is limited (if you can call it that). By now, both sides resemble prizefighters who have gone a full count with each other but are somehow still standing. They are just too tired, too worn out to keep going. And so, they sue for peace.

As usual, Turtledove’s cast of characters is drawn from every walk of life in a world on the edge is on full display here. Historical characters such as Harry Truman and Vyacheslav Molotov are mixed with the fictional. For the most part, these are all handled very well. 

This is based on an event, given MacArthur’s demands for the use of nuclear weapons, that very nearly happened. It is difficult to imagine, for example, that Stalin wouldn’t have retaliated and that events would’ve unfolded in a manner similar to that Turtledove suggests. I do have a little difficulty, however, in the way Turtledove has broadly shoehorned his plot into the timeline of the Korean War.  Would an actual war have gone on this long or would it have lasted longer? Thankfully, this is something we will never know. Perhaps Turtledove in his own way is suggesting there is a certain inevitability to history – in whichever universe you live in.

Armistice is a satisfying conclusion to The Hot War trilogy. Definitely worth reading.

What’s Next?
It has been a rough-and-tumble month around the old blog, unfortunately. Now it’s time to pick up the pieces and start again. Upcoming, I am now reading S.M. Stirling’s latest book, Black Chamber.  I also have a few other things on the go…

In the meantime, 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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