May 7, 2015
Bombs Away, by Harry Turtledove
Bombs Away begins with President Harry Truman heeding the advice of General Douglas MacArthur, whose control of the ground war in Korea has slipped disastrously away. MacArthur recognizes a stark reality. The U.S. military has been cut to the bone after victory over the Nazis—while China and the U.S.S.R. have built up their forces. The only way to stop the Communist surge into the Korean Peninsula and save thousands of American lives is through a nuclear attack. MacArthur advocates a strike on Chinese targets in Manchuria. In actual history, Truman rejected his general’s advice. But here, he does not. And the miscalculation turns into a disaster when Truman fails to foresee Russia’s reaction.
I’ve been a Turtledove fan for more than thirty years. I can’t believe it has taken me that long to discover the formula that Turtledove uses in each war story. I suppose I’ve not seen it because of excellent non-war series like Supervolcano and the Krispos series. I suspect I was subconsciously aware of the Turtledove Formulaic Doctrine (TFD) during the last four books of the southern victory series, but as I read certain characters, situations and even dialect, in Bombs Away, it hit me.
Formula aside, Bombs Away is another war story in classic the Turtledove fashion. Tons of research, characters that are engaging (well, from the TFD, they’re just cut and paste,) and I care about the ensemble cast.
As for story, dropping the A-bomb on China isn’t anything that ‘wows’ me, but they don’t call him ‘the Master of Alternate History’ for nothing.
This review appears to be overly negative, but in reality, Turtledove fans want the TFD, and Bombs Away does not fail to deliver. As a fan myself, I’ll read the next book in The Hot War series. Three stars according to Goodreads is “I liked it” and I did.
Dr Harry Norman Turtledove is an American novelist, who has produced a sizeable number of works in several genres including alternate history, historical fiction, fantasy and science fiction. Turtledove has been dubbed “The Master of Alternate History”. Within this genre he is known both for creating original scenarios: such as survival of the Byzantine Empire; an alien invasion in the middle of the World War II; and for giving a fresh and original treatment to themes previously dealt with by other authors, such as the victory of the South in the American Civil War; and of Nazi Germany in the Second World War.