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4.4 out of 5 stars
12
4.4 out of 5 stars


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It might be nice to think that this aspect of the book is now outdated; unfortunately, a cursory glance at many of the books sitting alongside "The Iron Dream" on the shelves of any bookshop shows that most of them are still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.
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on 15 November 2017
This book seems to get rave reviews so I downloaded it on a whim, not entirely sure what to expect. The opening and closing statements are what it's all about and I fully understand what the author has aimed for with the main prose, but the relentless, fanatical use of the same language, ideas and statements really grind on you after a while.

While it's interesting to see the parallels between this and other sci-fi / fantasy stories, I would prefer the whole thing to have been an infinitely more subtle approach to the concept.
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on 23 April 2017
Important note to Kindle users! Read the introduction! My Kindle always skips to the first page of the main story so i spent quite a while wondering why such a highly rated book was so cringe. Essentially, its a deliberately terrible book with a clever bit at the start and the end. It is very readable, but whether reading it is worthwhile is debatable. It deliberately indulges in the worst aspects of fantasy so if you've read a lot you'll be in on that joke as well as the main idea.
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on 16 September 2017
A science fiction and historical fiction novel blended together perfectly. Not only is it a good read, it makes you think and consider the messages in over the top fantasy epics.
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on 22 July 2010
It's a shame on the publishing world that this superb book has been out of print for so long. It's not that Spinrad isn't still bankable, so it must be that the concept was too weird for most publishers.

Any fantasy fan will read it with alternate enjoyment and wincing embarassment as we see the dark side of our favourite tropes. If you're familiar with the history of the time, you'll also grin and wince at seeing those events from inside the head of a protagonist for whom the Nazis are shining heroes battling sub-human monsters. Spinrad has done for the Third Reich what "Animal Farm" did for the Bolsheviks: given us a way to see the story with fresh eyes, and understand better why the people involved did what they did.

That would be enough in itself, but it's also a wickedly accurate exposure of the subconscious of heroic fantasy. When I first read it as a Tolkien-mad student, it made me take a very hard look at "Lord of the Rings." You'll never read your favourite fantasy authors quite the same way again.
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on 24 July 2009
In the 1920s Adolph Hitler takes a break from painting to dabble in politics. He can't convince anyone of his original but batty ideas. Condemned as being a dreamer he returns to painting and in the 1940s becomes involved in the Golden Age of sf. In this supportive environment he develops his ideas on genetics and his vision for the future. Iron Dream is his masterwork. Meanwhile L. Ron Hubbard gives up sf and becomes a religious guru expanding wacky ideas to a growing cult...

This is a lengthy imagining of a world war as it might have occurred if it had remained only in the mind of a barking mad sf author, and as such it is an original idea. As a short story it would have been nicely ironical, but as a novel it overstays its welcome. It would have helped if the story had had more to say beyond the initial premise instead of being filled with ever more extreme set pieces. As it is, over-the-top incident is plied on top of over-the-top incident until the overkill makes it hard to wade through the text to get to the end.

Ultimately this novel is more fun to read about than to actually read. But having said that it is well worth dipping into for a few chapters to get the general idea.
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on 1 September 1999
This is a novel within a novel - the premise being that in an alternative timeline Hitler left Germany in the 1920s and became a science fiction writer in the USA rather than dictator of Germany. This is his sci-fi masterpiece -' The Lord of the Swastika'. In fact the fantasy story he tells mirrors the rise of the Nazi movement and WWII as it happened in actuality. This novel provides as good an insight into the psychological appeal of the paraphernalia of Nazism as any serious historical work. In addition it works as a acerbic and mordant satire on the power-fantasy (i.e. basically fascistic) driven nature of so much of 'heroic fiction' and 'sword and sorcery'. All this and it works as a novel it its own right. Cannot recommend too highly.
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on 19 December 2014
The Iron Dream is one of a kind. It is a mixture of comedy and farce with generous amounts of black humor thrown into the mix. I first read it back in the mid 70s not long after it was published and I never forgot it. I have re-read it many times since. To put it another way, it's one of those books that will stay with me forever. It's possible that Spinrad miscalculated slightly - if the reader is not well read in 'real' 20th century European history then the characters will seem one dimensional and a bit pallid. However, if the reader is familiar with the Treaty of Versailles, the Putsch of 1923, the Weimar Republic, Hitler's election to Chancellor in 1933 etc, then the irony and black humor jumps out of every page. In sum, a masterpiece..
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on 18 March 2010
The Lord of the Swastika - the sci-fi novel written by Adolf Hitler that lurks within Norman Spinrad's The Iron Dream - is a bit of a one-joke wonder. And as another reviewer has commented, it quickly wears thin.

So, you probably already know the plot behind the novel, but it bears an abbreviated repeating: within Spinrad's book lies another, this one written by the Adolf Hitler of an alternate timeline, one where he gave up radical politics and emigrated to the US in 1919. There Hitler earns a living first as an illustrator of pulp sf, then branching into writing sf himself, and finishes his final novel in 1953, The Lord of the Swastika, shortly before his death. The book subsequently wins the Hugo Award.

There, if you haven't read it, that's all you need to know. A bizarre, outrageous, hilarious concept: Adolf Hitler reduced to the status of a sci-fi hack writer. What an awful and thoroughly deserved fate for the leader of the Third Reich. But it is about 100 pages too long. And after a while it is incredibly boring.

Potted plot of the novel within the novel: Hitler's protagonist, Feric Jagger, returns from exile to his homeland of Helder. There he hopes to rouse other Truebreeds and go on a crusade to wipe out the monstrous mutants of the nations that surround Helder. Feric quickly rises to supreme command of Helder owing to his obvious genetic superiority, and an uncanny ability to organise violent, mass party rallies. He then takes the armed forces of Helder on an assault that wipes out the opposing forces of the Dominators of Zind. The Zind are nasty, brutish types, naturally, and before their ultimate defeat they detonate a cobalt bomb which pollutes the genetic code of the people of Helder forever. Fortunately Helder's scientists are able to clone the elite SS and Feric himself - thus ensuring that they can repopulate the world, and send colony ships into space (makes one question whether it really was the Zind who detonated the bomb, or Feric himself).

Imagine that: entire worlds full of right-wing, male clones. Who would do all the housework? Wouldn't they all get awfully bored?

I confess this book is another of my failures: I couldn't get past page 110. I didn't see why I should wade any further. It's mercilessly bad writing. Of course, it is meant to be: I mean it doesn't really bear imagining, does it. Sci-fi by Hitler? Uggghh. But once you've got over the initial premise, it's all rather thin and unchallenging, lazy even. And the irony that is so laboured here: that Nazism's rise to power was simply on the back of ideas like midnight rallies, genetic purity, phallic symbolism etc (as the mock critic Homer Whipple writes, it couldn't happen here, could it?) is lazy too. As any history student who has studied Germany in the inter-war years can tell you, it really wasn't that simple. And given the right conditions it - genocide - could happen again. It has.

Actually, the funniest bits are the blurb at the front about the author (the alternate history Adolf Hitler) and the list of his other works: Emperor of the Asteroids, The Builders of Mars, The Triumph of the Will etc.

Much as I loathe to bash a novel that bashes National Socialism, this one's really not that much cop.
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on 24 February 2000
Probably the most powerful piece of science fiction I have ever read
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