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Customer Review

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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