First Malkin, now Turtledove

An Amazon review of his new alternate history novel about the Japanese occupation of Hawaii:

Let’s face it. Harry Turtledove could write about a fencepost and make it sound interesting. Words flow from this man. His use of the English language is like a lubricant, making everything so much easier. In short, he’s got writing talent. But this alternate history of Pearl Harbor, despite its moments, ultimately disappoints.

The military scenario (a Japanese seizure of the Hawaiian archipelago following the December 7, 1941 attack) isn’t credible unless you give the Japanese fuel, food, supplies, logistics, and occupation troops they didn’t really possess. That violates the rule for an alternate history. It must be something that really could have happened.

Turtledove’s long passages about imprisoned Americans, including Japanese-Americans, are repetitious and boring. He often uses military nomenclature incorrectly. I thought Turtledove’s “The Guns of the South” was brilliant. I thought his other alternate histories were poor. This one lies somewhere between. If you like a good story, this will be okay for you. If you demand authentic military details, it won’t be.

I haven’t read much Turtledove, although I did enjoy the Misplaced Legion series in high school. I think I’ll be skipping this one. A statement by another reviewer made me laugh, though.

“Alternate History offers a rich field for science fiction authors. But one curious thing is that this book appears to be the first major novel in English to speculate about a successful Japanese capture of Hawaii during World War 2. Some 60 years after 7.12.1941. One might wonder why, given the number of American SF authors in the postwar years, and the creative talent of this group.”

Probably for the same reason we don’t write a lot of books about what would have happened if the Bahamas had developed the first atomic bomb. It simply isn’t credible, and except among those who are sufficiently ignorant to take Malkin seriously, this book is unlikely to be very well regarded among enthusiasts of military history. There aren’t any war games on the subject either.