It seems Turtledove writes two types of alternative history: one, as in The Guns of the South, previously discussed here, uses a science fiction mechanism to change things (there time travel, in his Worldwar series an alien invasion); the second, as here, simply posits a different decision being taken somewhere along the line that he feels would have caused a significant deviation from our recorded history. He will then write about the same episodes in history (usually major wars, from the books I’ve seen) through both mechanisms, as completely separate series or individual books.
In this particular book, the Japanese when attacking Pearl Harbor (my UK spell-check thinks that should be ‘harbour’, but as a place name I’m disagreeing) back up the devastation of its forces by air attack with an invasion, taking the islands and thereby not only slowing the Americans down in the Pacific, but also giving themselves a base from which to attack the US mainland‘s West Coast.
This is where I should admit that my knowledge of the Pacific part of WWII is pretty sketchy, and largely based on novels and films. (As a European Jew, my studies of WWII tended towards the Holocaust and the war in Europe.) I can’t comment much, therefore, on where the history and the alternative diverge, but certainly Turtledove makes everything seem pretty plausible.
As a novel, the story certainly works. We have several viewpoint characters, both Japanese and American (and one Japanese man who’s been living on Hawaii for decades but can’t quite understand why his sons consider themselves American rather than Japanese). All but one or two of these are based on and around the Hawaiian islands for most of the novel, and those are US mainlanders who give us some perspective on how things are being seen from afar, as well as in positions likely to get them more involved later in the series. I think the mix is good to show us what’s happening to the various populations involved, and yet the characters are developed individuals that we can care about or at least understand.
I don’t have the sequel to this yet, but I am looking forward to it. I’ve really taken to Turtledove’s alt. history, and they’re good and thought provoking.
- Freedom of Information Act Reveals Files Suggesting FDR’s Role in Pearl Harbor (worldtruthtoday.com)
- World War II History – USS Missouri (wired.com)
- Matching pasts (kaet.wordpress.com)
- The Guns of the South by Harry Turtledove (sciencefictionliterature.wordpress.com)
- When and how did japan attack the United states (wiki.answers.com)
- Just In: 03/18 At Audible (theibookemporium.com)
- The upside… (kaet.wordpress.com)
- Why was the Pearl Harbor attack such a shock to the US (wiki.answers.com)
- Did the us attack japan before japan attacked pearl harbor (wiki.answers.com)
- Who won world war 2 that attacked America (wiki.answers.com)
- Japanese Internment (michaeltfields100w.wordpress.com)
- What was most importantly not at Pearl Harbor during the attack (wiki.answers.com)
Tags: alternative fiction, books, Days of Infamy, Guns of the South, Harry Turtledove, historical fiction, history, Novels, Pearl Harbor, postaday2011, Twentieth Century, United States, World War II, Worldwar