The basic premise here is that the US dropped atomic bombs on Manchuria to keep Red Chinese forces from coming to the aid of North Korea in 1951. Rather predictably this starts World War III as the USSR retaliates.
Book two in the trilogy finds our numerous characters pretty much where we left them at the end of book one. Several are killed off in rather quick succession though; even as I write this minutes after finishing the book, I can’t really bring to mind which characters died because we never really become invested in whether or not any of them survive. The surviving characters don’t really make much progress in their lives either though we are apparently some 18 months or more past the beginning of the war. The only real plus here was, having set up Senator Joe McCarthy as a character, Turtledove kills him off.
While I am not a military expert, by any means, I find some serious flaws in the way the war is being waged. Both sides are dropping numerous atom bombs with gay abandon when, by most accounts, the US had perhaps 130 atom bombs in 1951 while the USSR had maybe 25. Way too many bombs have been dropped by both sides for either to have any left at this point. And the defenses on each side are questionable. Both the US and the USSR are using WWII bombers, B-29 for the US, a copy for the USSR, and in the six years after the end of WWII defenses against such bombers had improved vastly yet they hit large cities with minimal resistance. Even after the bombing of Seattle and Los Angeles and Paris as well as similarly important targets in the USSR, no one seems to have made any strides, or even minimally beefed up anti-air defenses. Antwerp, a major port for the Allies, is bombed with the multiple USSR planes being able to approach without being seen on radar or encountering any anti-aircraft fire and strike a major strategic city that is apparently not even blacked out.
Turtledove is still giving us way too much repetitive extraneous details about the brand of cigarettes, the type of alcohol being drunk, the interchangeability, or not, of the weapons and their ammo, that the Russian bomber is an exact copy of the US B-29 and, of course, the most annoying, the constant reminder of who is a Jew even when it has nothing whatsoever to do with the character’s current actions or situation. This not Turtledove at his best, these are seriously in need of a strict editor. I will, assuming it is sent for review, finish the trilogy from some mild curiosity as to who eventually wins but I’d recommend getting these from the library if they sound remotely interesting to you. ~~ Stephanie L Bannon
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