NESFA Members' Reviews


by Newt Gingrich and William R. Forstchen

Baen, ISBN 0-671-87676-7, 1995, 382pp, US$24

A book review by Evelyn C. Leeper

Copyright 1995 Evelyn C. Leeper

I suppose it's only fair to state up front that Newt Gingrich is not one of my favorite people. I still think I can be objective about this review, but I thought I should at least say that.

It's also worth noting up front that on page 382, the book says "To Be Continued...," and indeed ends rather abruptly in the middle of events, though the jacket does not indicate anywhere that this is the first book of the series. This leads people to ask where Gingrich is going to find the time to write the sequel, which in turn leads them to ask how much of this he actually wrote. Who knows? He was a professor of history, so he does have the background for developing the concept, but it's not unreasonable to assume that most of the actual writing was Forstchen's.

The premise of this alternate history is that at the time of Pearl Harbor, Hitler was in a coma from a plane crash and so could not declare war on the United States. As a result, the Pacific War was quickly won by us, while Germany overran Europe, leaving only England standing against it. This could be a fascinating examination of the world that would have resulted, but instead it's an excuse for long descriptions of armaments and the use of incredibly stale cliches ("The film [of the death camps] had run counter to everything he had ever thought he knew about a culture that could produce Goethe, Beethoven and Schiller."). And it falls into the trap of preaching: "There were times when a man had to lay his life on the line, and that meant not just his physical life--most servicemen understood and accepted the probability that from time to time they must step in harm's way--but his career as well, which far too many were afraid to risk." And on top of everything else, what puts our country at risk? The fact that the government has taken away the guns of people in a certain area. Who is going to save the day? The good ol' Southern boys who still have guns.

The one positive thing I can say is that while the famous excerpt about the "pouting sex kitten" turning into "Diana the huntress" is still here--and indeed is the prologue to the book--the rest of the book is not in that style. (And a good thing it is, too, since that style is very un-1940s: it is very jarring to read a historical novel in too modern a style.) In fact, the whole "subplot" of that prologue is somewhat unnecessary, at least in this volume, and appears only once more, and then briefly, making the whole thing appear like a crash publicity stunt to gain attention for the book.

For me, the appeal of alternate history is to see what sort of world, what sort of society, might develop if something were different. As I noted, though, we see next to nothing of the world--almost the entire book is spent in government offices, on military bases, or in battles. There's no description of how life is different in the United States, no description of how life is different in Germany, and next to nothing about the result of the quick war in the Pacific. In short, there's nothing that I can recommend here.

%T      1945
%A      Newt Gingrich
%A      William R. Forstchen
%C      New York
%D      August 1995
%I      Baen
%O      hardback, US$24
%G      ISBN 0-671-87676-7
%P      382pp
%S      1945
%V      1

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