Baen Books, 2012, 343 p.
I spotted this when the good lady was returning Irène Némirovsky’s Jezebel to the local library. As a sucker for altered histories I thought I’d give it a whirl.
The set up here is that Japan won the Battle of Midway. Hawaii is withering on the vine, Japanese forces have invaded Alaska, raided the Panama Canal and occasionally bombard the US west coast. The sole substantial US aircraft carrier remaining is the Saratoga.
The novel focuses mainly on US Navy officer Tim Dane (who speaks and reads Japanese as a result of a pre-war visit there) though other characters – particularly his nurse girlfriend, Amanda Mallard – are given viewpoint scenes. The plot involves the lack of knowledge the Japanese have of the Saratoga’s whereabouts. A sub-plot involving a German saboteur, Wilhelm Braun, a former official in their embassy in Mexico, folds into the main narrative towards the end. We are given two token sympathetic Japanese characters (one belatedly sympathetic) and one German, Johann Klaas; but neither are all the USians in the book noble, good and true.
The scenario doesn’t really tell us anything new about the Pacific War nor illuminate history to any great degree. Effectively we spend the book waiting on the inevitable (given the author’s nationality and the publisher’s address) US victory.
I must say that for me Japanese Admiral Yamamoto’s tactics in the final battle of the book did not quite ring true; but had it been otherwise the novel would have had to continue well beyond its 343 pages.
This is the sort of thing that Harry Turtledove seems to perform effortlessly. Conroy’s prose is as efficient and his characterisation may (I would put it no higher) be slightly better but the immersion in the milieu feels less deep. I doubt I’ll read any more by him.
There are several instances of omitted or repeated words. Britain is named as “England” (though the adjective used for the UK’s forces is “British.”) In a scene involving Johann Klaas, his name is mistakenly given as Braun in one sentence.