Top positive review
I am delighted to have done so
4 May 2016
Being an unashamed fan of alternate history or "what if" novels, I ordered this book as soon as I discovered a reference to it in a customer's review of a different "changed past" novel. I am delighted to have done so. I am a great fan of Stephen Fry as a television host and film actor, but this is the first time I have delved into one of his books.
The premise that the world might be a better place had Hitler never even been born is not exactly new, and nor is the premise that in fact his early death or non-existence might have actually made things worse. A lot worse, even. After all, the conditions which led to the Nazis' rise to power in post-World War 1 Germany would have existed whether Hitler was around or not, and a different Fuhrer might just have guided Germany to the world domination which Hitler himself failed to achieve. Here Stephen Fry creates Rudi Gloder, who becomes Fuhrer of Germany in an alternative history, and much of the world (especially Europe and most especially Russia) suffers greatly for it.
In fact, what would have been needed to stop the Nazi rise to power would have been for World War 1 to never happen, a premise which Ben Elton dealt in his excellent recent novel "Time And Time Again", and in which book the Law of Unintended Consequences also becomes all too apparent as things don't map out at all as its characters intended. If you are going to sterilise anybody by the use of a male contraceptive dropped back in time (as is the premise of Making History), rather make Kaiser Bill's father incapable of siring children, not Hitler Senior. But that is bye the bye. This is obviously all fat-fetched fiction, and, as always when it's in the hands of a writer with a fertile imagination, this alternate history work is a fascinating read.
Yes, I have a few issues with "Making History." It takes a long time to hit its stride, and I fail to see the need for several of its chapters to be written in the style of a screenplay. Furthermore, as another reviewer here has written, I probably would have liked the book even better had the alternate history part been set in Nazi Europe and not in an America which, for reasons not explained, is openly homophobic and, racist, engaged in a cold war with Europe, and overrun with secret police. Yet these American scenes are handled extremely well, as the realization gradually dawns on the reader that the country is a an increasingly far cry from the USA that we know today, and not in good ways. Obviously we will never know just what America or Europe might have been like had there been no Hitler, but Fry's imagining of it is as realistic and valid as any other potential scenario.
Despite a few quibbles, I am content to give "Making History" five stars out of five,. Once I became accustomed to the author's somewhat peculiar and rambling writing style in the early chapters, I simply could not put it down., I finished all 500 plus pages in two sittings, and missed episodes of some of my favourite TV shows while doing so. And ultimately, isn't this desire to be so engrossed in a story that we are happy to skip other pleasurable pursuits one of the principal reasons why we read books in the first place?