Friday, May 18, 2007

Final Impact: John Birmingham Keeps Kicking Ass
Die, Nazi, Die

[One spoiler clearly marked below]

Well, now that grades are in and summer has officially started for me, I'm supposed to be getting some actual writing done.

Instead, I read the latest in Birmingham's Axis of Time trilogy, Final Impact.

O.k., let me start by acknowledging the obvious: Final Impact (like the rest of the AoT trilogy) is not (makes serious face) serious literature. The Sound and the Fury it ain't. But it isn't supposed to be. What it's supposed to be is interesting and fun and cool. And that it is. If you're anything like me, you really, seriously, no kidding won't want to put it down. It's one of those books you'll tear through even as you try to get yourself to slow down and make it last.

But you won't be able to, because what red-blooded American boy can resist a book about a carrier task force from 2021 accidentally transporting itself back to WWII to kick some Axis ass?

None, that's what. Er, which. Er, who. Er, you get the point.

There's nothing like dead Nazis to brighten your day, and Birmingham's books provide plenty of 'em...though there's actual and interesting plot and character-development, and the books are surprisingly well-written by the standards of the relevant genres (sci-fi, technothriller).

One point that might be relevant to most denizens of this blog: Birmingham's books are pervaded by a salutary sensibility--a kind of steely-eyed, level-headed, two-fisted liberalism. To give you the flavor of all this, let me just note that the carrier at the center of the book's 21st-century task force is the U.S.S. Hillary Clinton, named after the (assassinated) 44th president of the U.S., and described as "the most uncompromising wartime president in American history." (Well, 'uncompromising' can look like something less than a compliment in this context after the last six years...but nevermind that for now.)

So, if the right-wing politics of such technothrillers ordinarily put you off, the Axis of Time may be for you. In addition to fighting the Nazis, the Japanese, and the Communists, admiral Kolhammer's boys (and girls) have to fight the bone-headed conservatism of mid-20th-century America (and Great Britain, and Australia). And, I have to say, the books actually make you reflect a bit on this point: although we were the good guys...we really weren't all that good. We were still a radically racist and sexist society--a point that even folks like me tend to overlook.

O.k., one more point: [beware: mid-level spoiler]:
One of the interesting points Birmingham makes in the books is that even the arrival of a full-blown 21C carrier task force wouldn't automatically and necessarily have won the war. What actually happens is that the technology gets distributed in an odd way, and the Axis and Allies end up in a high-tech arms race. They obviously can't build F-22s, but they can build, e.g., AK-47s. I was really disappointed that the Allies stuck with the Sherman. I had visions of hordes of Pershings rolling over the Reich and giving the panzers what-for. Alas, 'twas not to be.
[end spoiler] the heck is my point here? Anybody? Anybody?

How about:

Final Impact: Philosoraptor say: check it out.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks Mr Raptor. Your cheque is in the mail.

8:11 PM  
Blogger Winston Smith said...

I knew this blog would make me money some day...

9:21 AM  

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