Okay – with a title like that, you have to pick up the book
I am an alternate history junkie so the title of this book caught my attention. I myself write fiction and non-fiction and the author, Robert Dorr, has made the hop into fiction with this book.
The concept is relatively simple. The Nazi’s and Americans build time machines and wage a war across time and across the face of WWII against each other.
Dorr’s storyline places some relatively strange limits (and almost logically unexplained) on the time travelers. They can’t go into the future (until they do) and when they travel, they can’t be in sunlight without melting to a pile of goo. Also the rule of “you can’t kill anyone,” just doesn’t feel right to me. In general, I enjoyed the storyline but felt some of the parameters were a bit forced and lacked any real explanations in terms of pseudo-science. Example is that the rule that people cannot travel to the future seems to just suddenly happen in the book rather than having anything that leads up to it that makes it plausible to the reader. It felt like a plot ploy to me, deus ex machina – ish. I had no problem with the turn of events, but as a reader I wanted to be led there rather than suddenly having the capability to travel to the future thrust upon me. When you introduce scientists as characters, they need to explain the technology in ways that make sense for the readers. Here they don’t quite. It doesn’t distract from the story, but it can leave you wondering “why?” other than to force the storyline.
In terms or characters, I felt that there was an almost Agent Carter-ish creation with the American female character which didn’t work for me. Her role, and the places she goes and things she does just don’t match 1940’s thinking about female roles. It felt a bit contrived to me as a reader. Most of the characters were solid, if not a bit flat. Usually with a good AH story you are drawn into the book by the concept (in this case – double-check!) but what keeps you there are the characters. In this book, what drives you is not the characters as much as the results of what they do. It’s probably just me, but I didn’t develop a fondness for the characters that I was hoping to do.
Dorr’s got some wonderfully brilliant stuff in here. How Churchill rises to power as a result of Nazi time incursion is wonderful. Dorr knows his history and is solid with the technical details. Some of those details, especially around the SS, really don’t add to the story or the characters. And much like Harry Turtledove, Dorr brings up some things many times over and over to make a point with the reader. As an author – I understand that completely. As a reader, there are times I just wanted to move on.
From a reader’s perspective, I found some of the chapters far too short for my liking. I just started reading about a character and boom, onto the next scene. It makes for a fast paced book but lacks the depth you want.
Overall I give this book 4 stars (out of 5) because I did love the broad concept. This is a book that had a lot more potential than it delivered, but is still a good investment of time (pun intended).