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 1945: A Novel
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Alternate History Books   >   Books   >   1945

   
 

1945


Synopsis:
Themes:
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Review of 1945:

Not to be confused with Robert Conroy's 1945, this book by Newt Gingrich (the former Speaker of the United States House of Representatives) and William Forstchen is based on the intriguing premise that the United States remained neutral during World War II in Europe, and fought only in the Pacific. The point of departure for this is that Hitler has a serious accident incapacitating him just before the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, and by the time he recovers, his lieutenants have decided not to declare war on the US and stabilized the Russian front to boot. Germany is then able to fight both Russia and the UK to a standstill, and left as master of mainland Europe. The story itself is set in 1945, four years after these events. The Germans discover through esponiage that the US is close to perfecting the atomic bomb, so decide to put an end to the Manhattan program, and finish off Britain at the same time.

At the time that the book was first released in 1945, it is probably fair to say that it received quite a lot of criticism. Some of Gingrich's political supporters, claimed that critics were politically motivated. Frankly, I couldn't care less about Gingrich's politics, but I had some doubts about the book too.

First, the good points: An intriguing premise, and some good ideas.

For me however, there were a number of areas that I was disappointed with:
  • First of all, I felt like the work needed some serious editing. I felt that there was way too much exposition by dialog, too much repetition, and I even noticed the spelling of a character's name changing part way through the story.

  • Secondly, there were parts of the story that I was not convinced by - for example, Otto Skorzeny, scouts ahead for a Nazi commando raid on the US, but seems to do very little scouting or preparation, a dead trooper is washed-up on a beach in South Carolina and amazing deductive reasoning allows the hero to conclude he was an SS man, the bad guys are just plain evil, the good guys seem to me to be too good, and I also believe that the dialog was sometimes inappropriate for the period and context.

  • Thirdly, in what appears to me to be intended to make a blatant contemporary political point about gun control and the Second Amendment, the crack Nazi commandos get routed by a bunch of locals using their own firearms.

  • Fourthly, the ending: the main story ends, and then we get the beginning of a second story. This was interesting, but once again I felt there was too much dialog. The second story is clearly intended as a prologue to a planned sequel (which was to be called "Fortress Europa"), which has never yet been released - I'll return to that point at the end of this review.

  • Finally, there's a lot of details that I'm extremely doubtful of. Some people have criticized the point of departure, for example by arguing that war between the US and Germany was inevitable even without Pearl Harbor, since the two countries' navies were shooting at each other in the Atlantic by late 1941 - but I think that's the point of departure while perhaps debatable, isn't impossible. I had bigger concerns with the timeline, including whether Britain would have accepted a compromise peace with Germany just because the US didn't immediately enter the war in Europe? Why is the US president, an apparently previously unknown figure named Andrew Harrison - if FDR didn't stand for a fourth term, what about Harry Truman, Wendell Wilkie or Thomas E. Dewey? How can it possibly be good (or even plausible) strategy for the Germans to start their invasion of the UK at Edinburgh, which is bound to be heavily guarded, is out of range of most of German aircraft, and vulnerable to artillery placed anywhere else on the Firth of Forth estuary.
From what I have read, this book was not a commercial success. This probably explains why the planned sequel, "Fortress Europa", has never been released... although Gingrich and Forstchen have gone on to write other alternate histories together. I am actually disappointed that the sequel hasn't been released - I would buy it if it is ever released.

As you may realize now, my feelings about this book are ambivalent. I think the basic idea is very good, but it's the execution and details that I found disappointing. It's very frustrating to come across book like this - which you feel doesn't live up to its promise.


   

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