I like alternate history. It’s fun to imagine what might have been if outcome A had instead been outcome B. But I haven’t read enough of alternate history novels to know if it’s actually a good subject. After Bombs Away I’m inclined to think I enjoy thinking about alternate history much more than reading it.
Bombs Away is the aftermath of one essential question. What if Harry Truman had listened to General Douglas MacArthur and used nuclear weapons on the Chinese during the Korean War? As everyone and the book seems to think: WWIII is the only possible outcome. Russia retaliates with nukes. We retaliate back. They start invading Germany. Atomic bombs fly this way and that and the world is changed for the worst forever.
The novel shifts perspectives early and often, trying to give the reader a wealth of different viewpoints. Some of my favorites include the Russian tank commander, the Hungarian soldier, and the former Nazi soldier now fighting with the Americans. These are varied and unique. But there are plenty of perspectives I found incredibly boring. In a book about World War III, why are there three separate “homefront” perspectives and zero Asian perspectives? I found that some of these could be easily skipped and served nothing to my understanding of the plot.
Similarly, many of these characters had an incredible understanding of the entire situation in the world. Or of historical facts in general. It made them feel more like the author in different situations rather than unique individuals. Many sections also repeat the same feelings or thoughts that the character already expressed in an earlier section. Like the author was reminding himself that this is what motivated the character. But I already know what motivates him, I read it earlier.
It’s not bad or lazy writing by far. But when you’ve read World War Z, which nails the shifting perspectives motif, it pales by comparison. It was hard to care by the end, especially with more interesting novels on my reading list. I will most likely not be attempting to finish this series.
1.5 out of 4 stars.