Shop now Shop now Shop now Shop All Amazon Fashion Summer Savings Up to 25% Off Cloud Drive Photos Shop now Learn More Shop now Shop now Shop Fire Shop Kindle Oasis Listen in Prime Shop now Learn more
Customer Review

25 of 26 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Enjoyable alternate-history thriller, 13 Jun. 2007
This review is from: Weapons of Choice: World War 2.1 - Alternative History Science Fiction (Axis of Time Trilogy 1) (Paperback)
The Axis of Time Trilogy is a high-paced, high-tech alternate history thriller, probably what Tom Clancy and Harry Turtledove would come up with if they were locked in a room together.

The book opens in the year 2021. The western world has been at war with terrorist extremists for decades. London and Tokyo have suffered terrorist attacks which outstrip 9/11 in ferocity, Iran and Iraq have fought a second war, and the west's military forces have become used to fighting with ultra-high-tech arms and equipment against a shadowy enemy. When extremists seize control of Jakarta and begins executing foreign nationals, the United Nations authorises a massive military response. A flotilla of ships from half a dozen nations assemble under the leadership of Admiral Kolhammer on his flagship USS Hillary Clinton (who in this timeline was President and a great champion of the US Navy until her assassination). A research vessel conducting atom-smashing experiments in an attempt to create stable wormhole technology is caught up in the flotilla when her escorts are ordered to join it. Ill-advisedly, they continue with their experiments in the midst of the fleet, and accidentally destroy their vessel by creating a 15km-wide wormhole which sucks the entire fleet into it and dumps them in the North Pacific in June 1942. Right on top of Admiral Spruance's fleet sailing to relieve Midway Island.

It's a pretty solid, high-concept basis for a novel, essentially a reverse of the 1980s movie The Philadelphia Experiment on a much bigger scale with a dash of Harry Turtledove's Worldwar saga thrown in for good measure. At first it appears that the war is going to be pretty one-sided. As is shown in several engagements, the UN Taskforce possesses weapons so advanced they can obliterate entire Japanese fleets and industrial centres from hundreds of miles away. However, their weapons stocks are finite and the industrial base required to build new ones will take decades to establish. Also, in an interesting move, the incredulity which greets the arrival of the Taskforce is amended somewhat by it being in line with Einstein's own theories (Einstein has a couple of brief but amusing appearances in the novel, and in a funny scene is given a laptop as a gift). Unlike Turtledove, Birmingham tries to keep the famous historical figures restricted to brief cameos, with really only Admiral Yamamoto and Admiral Spruance receiving significant time on the page.

Birmingham's portrait of the world of 2021 is pretty grim, showing a world where the War on Terror has grown in size to endanger the lives of everyone, with suitcase-sized nuclear bombs destroying large chunks of major cities and the world militaries becoming hardened to the point of heartlessness with regards to mass casualties and suffering. Yet he also contrasts this nicely with WWII. WWII weapons may be vastly inferior, but in enormous quantities they maul the Taskforce quite badly on its arrival. And whilst the entire world may be at war, the clearly-delineated lines between good and evil, right and wrong give the people hope for survival and eventual victory, whilst the soldiers from the future are altogether more cynical and downbeat.

This interesting sociological portrait is probably the greatest strength of the novel and is what lifts it above other identikit military thrillers from the Clancy/Brown school of writing. The other thing is Birmingham's clever depiction of futuristic technology. Since the book is only set fourteen years hence, it doesn't go too overboard, although some may feel the use of implants capable of shooting medicine straight into soldiers and sailors at AI command is a little bit more advanced than that. The US fighter jet of choice is a more advanced version of the F-22 Raptor (which has just entered service in real life), whilst the new standard US supercarrier is the George Bush-class (actually, in real life, it's going to be called the Gerald Ford-class, but the novel was written before that decision was made).

Despite Birmingham's technical proficiency and his intriguingly bleak outlook of the future, he suffers from some weaknesses. Whilst the shock the 1942 US miltary feels at fighting alongside female, black, homosexual and Asian officers is perhaps understandable, Birmingham does repeatedly make the point about the period being casually rascist, sexist and homophobic to the point where it starts to get a bit tedious. There are also some leaps in logic in the middle of the book. The first half or so is pretty much entirely devoted to the shock of the Transition (as it is called) and its aftermath and barely covers 24 hours. The second half covers another month or so and ranges over a much vaster area, from Moscow and Berlin to Tokyo to Los Angeles and Brisbane. The transition between the two styles is a little jarring. Given the size of this novel (just shy of 800 pages) compared to the two sequels (450 and 380 pages respectively) one wonders if splitting this book in half to make the change in style work better would have been a better idea.

At heart, this book is an above-average military blockbuster with an interesting SF twist and better-than-normal characters. As the series progresses and moves further away from real history, I suspect the books will get less interesting (as happens with most Turtledove series), but the first book leaves enough cliffhangers and unresolved plot points to make the sequel, Designated Targets, worth a look when Penguin publishes it (presumably at the end of 2007). I'm particularly looking forward to seeing how Britain's Prince Harry - in the novels an SAS Captain in his late 30s - is treated in the sequels, where he apparently plays a bigger role.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No

Be the first person to comment on this review.

[Add comment]
Post a comment
To insert a product link use the format: [[ASIN:ASIN product-title]] (What's this?)
Amazon will display this name with all your submissions, including reviews and discussion posts. (Learn more)
Name:
Badge:
This badge will be assigned to you and will appear along with your name.
There was an error. Please try again.
Please see the full guidelines ">here.

Official Comment

As a representative of this product you can post one Official Comment on this review. It will appear immediately below the review wherever it is displayed.   Learn more
The following name and badge will be shown with this comment:
 (edit name)
After clicking on the Post button you will be asked to create your public name, which will be shown with all your contributions.

Is this your product?

If you are the author, artist, manufacturer or an official representative of this product, you can post an Official Comment on this review. It will appear immediately below the review wherever it is displayed.  Learn more
Otherwise, you can still post a regular comment on this review.

Is this your product?

If you are the author, artist, manufacturer or an official representative of this product, you can post an Official Comment on this review. It will appear immediately below the review wherever it is displayed.   Learn more
 
System timed out

We were unable to verify whether you represent the product. Please try again later, or retry now. Otherwise you can post a regular comment.

Since you previously posted an Official Comment, this comment will appear in the comment section below. You also have the option to edit your Official Comment.   Learn more
The maximum number of Official Comments have been posted. This comment will appear in the comment section below.   Learn more
Prompts for sign-in
  [Cancel]