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Tillabooks: Will's Book Blog

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

Days of Infamy by Harry Turtledove

Days of Infamy by Harry Turtledove. New York: New American Library, 2004. ISBN: 0-451-21307-6

This was not the next World War II book I was expecting from alternative history master Harry Turtledove. But, since I tend to read what shows up on my library's new books shelf first, I hadn't yet noticed that the book I WAS expecting was already published last August. So now I'll have to put in a request at the library for Settling Accounts, the first of the new Return Engagement Trilogy, and the next novel in what Turtledove calls The Great War series.

Anyway, in THIS novel, Turtledove explores the same time period, more or less, using another of his "what if" scenarios: what if Japan had invaded and conquered the Hawaiian Islands after Pearl Harbor?

The book follows the standard Turtledove modus operandi, namely we are introduced to a variety of characters, and follow each of them successively again and again as we live the story through their various perspectives. The characters include a surf bum, a Japanese immigrant and his two Americanized sons, an American Navy flyer, an American artilleryman, and various members of the Japanese military. Other civilians are also included, such as the estranged wife of the artilleryman.

The book skirts what could have been a horrific occupation style story, by minimizing to some extent, the effects of the occupation. Yes, the American military prisoners of war are put in a concentration camp, and not fed adequately, and any who step out of line are brutally punished, even killed. But the civilian characters are not particularly mistreated, the women are not raped, and so on. Turtledove doesn't really dwell on the negative aspects of the occupation, but mostly just shows us people keeping their heads down and trying to stay alive.

The story doesn't really go anywhere, or have any significant denouement. Which leads one to assume that Turtledove may well be planning one or more sequels, although I don't see any listed under "Upcoming" on his "sfsite.com" website. The book ends just following a major military engagement in which the US sends a carrier fleet to engage the Japanese carriers, hoping to follow up with an re-invasion of the islands. I won't play spoiler by telling you how that battle concludes.

Recommended for fans of alternate history, and Turtledove's particular approach to it.

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