Top positive review
5 people found this helpful
on 23 June 2017
Imagine a world where the Nazis won... it's an incredibly over-used trope. Star Trek, Doctor Who, and just about every other science-fiction franchise have wheeled it out at some point in their long histories. And yet sometimes it can still be done incredibly well. Philip K Dick's "Man In The High Castle" remains probably the definitive American account of a German/Japanese New World Order, decades on. And C. J. Sansom's Dominion will take some beating as a much more recent, but still compelling account of history gone awry.
This is a Britain where the war was ended shortly after Dunkirk. Churchill leads a clandestine resistance movement against a puppet government that is a, well, dominion of the Third Reich.
Sansom's masterstroke is that his vision of 1950s Britain under Nazi dominion, is very much that of 1950s Britain. The Nazis have been boiling a frog with the British people, gradually increasing restrictions on British Jews, and controlling the media, but everyday life appears to have carried on much as it ever did. The novel comes in at the point where Germany is finally coming for Britain's Jews, with the European population all but wiped out, and amid much paranoia about atomic weapons.
Dominion is a slow burn of a read that gradually accelerates into a breakneck adventure in its final third, as the London Smog descends (what is it with alternate histories and freak weather? I was reminded of the closing chapters of William Gibson's steampunk bible The Difference Engine). Sansom brings together a well-drawn cast of solid characters, each with their own fears and secrets. And when each of their worlds is torn apart, the book becomes a frequently uncomfortable read. We're used to seeing Indiana Jones beat up those comedy Nazi soldiers, but Sansom gives his readers the odd glimpse of some really nasty Gestapo torture and ruthlessness, and those are sequences that will stay with me for a very long time.
Dominion is not an easy read, but it is a compelling, exciting, sometimes harrowing, but always effortlessly gripping one.