End Of The Beginning by Harry Turtledove

ROC, 2005. 519p

A Churchill reference for the title this time rather than a Roosevelt one but it remains the same Turtledove.

The inhabitants of Hawaii are still coming to terms with the Japanese occupation which occurred in Days Of Infamy. Food is scarce, much of Hawaii’s land is now given over to growing rice, but for the US POWs it is less than scarce; plus they are being worked to death. Despite the harassment by submarine of the supply shipping from their home islands – at one point Turtledove alludes to the US breaking of Japanese codes which makes this easier – the Japanese forces are confident of holding off any further US attempts to retake the islands. On all sides, Japanese, native Hawaiians and US citizens alike, there is a sense of marking time – or holding on – until the inevitable renewed US attack. Meanwhile in the US there is a steely determination to regain the islands.

The lack of jeopardy to the characters which seemed to pervade Days Of Infamy is more than made up for here. In retrospect that may have been because the former book was an exercise in setting up this one, characters needed to be in place. End Of The Beginning explores the earlier book’s ramifications, one of which is that the fate you always felt Turtledove had in store for Jane Armitage (which was not so much foreshadowed as put up in lights) indeed comes to pass.

The US onslaught, when it comes, is of course overwhelming. (Admiral Yamamoto’s knowledge – and fear – of US industrial might and Japan’s relative lack of preparedness to withstand it is discussed more than once.)

The naval battle scenes are reasonably convincing and seem to pass quickly. The treatment of the Japanese resistance on Oahu feels a bit perfunctory, though. We hear about it but don’t witness much of it.

Turtledove is undoubtedly correct in not ignoring the Japanese enslavement of “comfort women.” Also reflecting the nineteen forties there is an element of misogyny – and maybe racism too – in the post-liberation treatment of the woman of Chinese origin who kept house in their brothel in Wahiawa. While two males suspected of being guilty of collaboration escape relatively freely, she does not.

Overall the book is curiously readable. Whether it was more familiarity with the characters and scenario or due to more incident it seemed to flow more freely than Days Of Infamy. But both books are marshmallow reading, very little thought is required.

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