A new novel of alternate history from a writer who specialises in that particular genre. It runs for four hundred and eighty eight pages, and is divided into twenty three chapters plus an epilogue.
It's a complete and self contained novel and not part of any series or trilogy.
The departure point from established history, as they say, is explained in a quick introduction from the writer. The Battle of Midway was, in reality, a stunning American victory against all the odds that changed the course of the pacific war. It was a monument to the vagaries of fate as things could have go so very differently if certain things had worked out other ways. Such as Japanese submarines failing to get into position on time beforehand to make contact with the American fleet.
Thus the book is about how things would have gone If they had. If America had lost three carriers and Midway island. Which would have left Hawaii in peril. And the entire west coast of the American continent under threat.
But the Japanese leaders did know that things were going better than they'd expected, and that America would eventually have the strength to build up and attack with overwhelming force. So in the meantime, could they do enough to force them to the negotiating table? And what help can their Nazi allies provide?
As with all books in this genre, the cast of many viewpoint characters are either creations of the writer or historical figures. And the narrative jumps between them. Many will be caught up in the middle of events. Others will hear about things happening from far away. All creating a picture of what it's like to be caught up in history.
The main characters are Tim Dane, an initially inexperienced naval officer who ends up having to learn fast. And Amanda Mallard, a nurse who starts out stationed in Hawaii. The two quickly meet, and, since they do follow a pattern the writer has used a fair few times before, you can tell where their relationship is going. But it's a good one because they are both believable as ordinary people caught up in extraordinary times, and the romance is most certainly earned, not least thanks to what Amanda has to go through to get away once the islands come under threat. This is a compelling section of narrative.
The book is also pretty good at showing things from the other side, as Japan strives to press home it's advantage, and the axis characters are pretty convincing.
It's a compelling read for the bulk of the narrative because you really can't be sure how it's going to work out, this not being an area too many alternative histories have explored before. It does start to feel a little overlong in the last quarter, but some good descriptions of aerial combat and submarine warfare do then grab the attention.
There's no flag waving patriotism. It doesn't pull it's punches in describing inter service rivalry and the problems with torpedoes that America had, and the secrecy that the times required, or what the Japanese Americans went through. The writer does sometimes come under stick for a perceived anti British attitude but you will find none of that here. And the ending does provide a decent sense of closure for all concerned.
A very good read if you like this kind of thing. There are some bits of strong language and a few moments of an adult nature.
Robert Conroy has come up with a enjoyable and well reasoned alternate history of the war in the Pacific. As with many of the great moments in history a relatively small change at a nexus point can produce a sweeping change to history. Conroy has chosen a change of course for the US Navy fleet heading to the battle of Midway in 1942. The result for the USN, disaster.
The story of how the disaster develops in both the small and large scale is enthralling with characters reacting to circumstances that to the reader are very new. Alas Mr Conroy does at times fail to do his research properly as he has the battleships HMS Prince of Wales and Renown sunk by the Japanese weeks before the war started. He does however (sometimes) acknowledge that the USA did have allies and indeed at one point admits that the US forces in Europe and North Africa are ASSISTING Britain and the other allied nations. A rare admission for an American author.
Anyway putting aside the jingoism this is a good and very readable book.
on 16 March 2014
Another cracking What if from Conroy, all the characters are believable and the action sequences are clear and keep you wanting to read, the only problem is you just cant put the book down, a fascinating period of time where anything could have happened and we all know how the real event unfolded, but to see it from a completely perspective opens your eyes to precarious world freedom was at that time, all the more reason to admire and respect the sacrifices that were made by that generation.