Top positive review
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A Swiftian classic - angry, shocking and hilarious
on 5 December 1999
A sly alternate history (Hitler emigrated to the U.S.A and became a hack sci-fi writer, and the book-within-a-book (complete with author's bio and list of other books by the same author) is the one he might have written), and a devastating satire of the fascistic tendencies of much sci-fi and sword-and-sorcery (and I speak, both in sorrow and in anger, as a devoted fan of both genres).
It might be nice to think that this aspect of the book is now outdated; unfortunately, a cursory glance at many of the books sitting alongside "The Iron Dream" on the shelves of any bookshop shows that most of them are still peddling the same themes (the hero who, by virtue of his hidden descent from the ancient heroes etc. etc., is alone genetically equipped to wield the mystic weapon/unleash his magical powers etc. etc. against the evil hordes of subhuman monsters/mutants/orcs etc. etc.) with a terrifyingly straight face. "The Iron Dream" is genuinely shocking because it is alarmingly close to much of what is being published today, while pushing it just a little bit further into something chillingly recognizable to anyone even vaguely familiar with 20th-century history.
It's also horribly funny. I found myself sniggering at Feric's obsession with tight black leather and the grotesque idea that such a campy absurdity could gain near-instant power over a whole nation merely by staging huge torch-lit parades and delivering stagy speeches - and remembering in the next split-second that, of course, someone no less grotesque did in fact do so ... Like Jonathan Swift's legendary "Modest Proposal", it's a joke in very bad taste, written out of the most intense morality and blazing anger.
As someone who only discovered this extraordinary book for myself this week, I was appalled to learn that it has only recently come back into print; Toxic deserve major congratulations for making such a classic available again. More than 20 years since its original publication, its audacity is still breathtaking (literally - at several points in the book, I gasped in shock, despite usually considering myself unshockable).
It's the existence of books like "The Iron Dream" that reminds one just how good science fiction can be. Read this book.