by Harry Turtledove
Reviewed by Steven H Silver
Bombs Away begins another alternate history series by Harry Turtledove, however rather than explore another version of World War II or the Civil War, this time Turtledove has turned his attention to the Korean War, sort of. The action certainly begins in Korea, but Turtledove quickly expands the theatre of operations in this first volume of The Hot War.
With American forces being beaten back in Korea, President Harry Truman decides to take the advice of General Douglas McArthur and use nuclear weapons against the Chinese city of Harbin to disrupt the Chinese ability to resupply forces in the Korean peninsula. McArthur promises Truman China didnít have nuclear capabilities of its own and that there was no way Stalin would go to war over the rival communist country. While correct on the first count, McArthurís prediction was woefully wrong on the second part and the attack on Harbin leads to a third World War in which atomic bombs strike at Soviet, American, and allied cities with some regularity.
Turtledove follows his typical format, with multiple viewpoint characters providing a perspective on the novelís events from as far afield as Los Angeles, Ukraine, Fakenham, Seattle, Harbin, Korea, and more. In Bombs Away, a larger number of these characters than usual seem to occupy civilian positions, possibly because they have found themselves the victims of the bombsí fallout. In any event, having more civilian perceptions means that the novel isnít focused quite as much on the military aspects.
Even though much of this war is fought from bombers, and characters like Bill Staley represent the flyboys, there is also plenty of ground action, seen by both the bemused infantrymen who found themselves impressed to fight against the Soviets in World War II and against the Germans in the new war, as well as other troops who had not expected to face their enemies again so soon.
Since Bombs Away is the first novel of a series, much of the book sets up the situation and introduces the wide variety of characters. Despite this, the book does move its various plots along and begins to build up the characters enough that they are distinct, with stories which will resonate with different readers. Some will enjoy the adventures of Aaron Finch in Los Angeles, while others will prefer reading about Boris Gribkovís battles with his Tu-4.
As with Joe Steele, which Turtledove published earlier this year, Bombs Away is a much more dystopian novel than many of his alternate histories. While often the wars he describe rage on in different manners than they did in our timeline, often the impacted area remains similar to that afflicted. In Bombs Away, the creation of essentially a new war means that vast areas see destruction and violence which would not have seen it in our world. This is further driven home by the viewpoint characters in Los Angeles and Seattle who live through attacks on the US homeland.
Turtledove explores an underserved area of history in Bombs Away, focusing on the period after World War II has ended. With new technology and the beginnings of a cultural change in place prior to his point of departure, it will be interesting to see Turtledove set this multi-viewpoint war novel apart from the battle sequences of past series. His civilians, both men and women, offer him the chance to explore the cultural changes created by this new war at this new time, making Bombs Away and intriguing beginning.
|Purchase this book|