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    Review of DAYS OF INFAMY by Harry Turtledove


    New American Library, November 2004

    Pushed into a corner by America's embargo--and by their costly war in China, Japan decides to strike back, hitting the American fleet in Pearl Harbor. In a twist that transforms the story from history to alternate history, however, the Japanese decide to follow up on their attack, occupying Hawaii and turning it into a bastion and shield against America. Rather than a single 'day of infamy,' the Japanese plan and carry out an invasion that results in days and months of infamy.

    The Americans fight back hard against the Japanese invaders but the loss of their land-based aircraft hurts them. What hurts them even more is the loss of their carriers when these huge warships sail back toward Pearl Harbor and attempt to meet the Japanese invasion. With the air completely under Japanese control, two Japanese divisions land and beat back the American defenses. With occupation comes hard times for the locals, whether of American, native Hawaiin, or even Japanese descent.

    One of the mysteries of World War II is why, if they were going to strike, the Japanese didn't finish the job. It would have been tough. The Americans would have fought back hard. But leaving Hawaii hit but not occupied had to be a mistake. Author Harry Turtledove (see more reviews of novels by Turtledove) builds on this concept, creating a convincing alternate world where the invasion took place--and succeeded. Japanese death-camps, harsh treatment of prisoners, hunger for both prisoners and locals, and other inhumanities follow--while mainland Americans hope to fight back, but continue to underestimate the determination and technical prowess of the Japanese forces.

    I have my problems with Turtledove's style--he has a tendency to repeat information too many times (do we really need to hear about the Japanese sacrificing armor for speed this many times?), and a habit (which his editors should pick up on and fix) of structuring sentences like 'he could have done comething, could have but didn't' way too often. That said, DAYS OF INFAMY is compelling alternate history. Turtledove took a reasonable possibility out of history. Japan was overstretched with its conquests, but it fielded a huge army in China. A couple of divisions wouldn't make much difference in China, but could make a huge difference in Hawaii. The American overconfidence is certainly historically valid. The details of the occupation of Hawaii are painfully similar to occupations that Japan did undertake, brought much more home by placing them in what is now an American state.

    If you're a fan of alternate history and you enjoy Turtledove, DAYS OF INFAMY is one you'll want to read. Although some may be offended by the idea that Japan had some motivation to go to war with the U.S., Turtledove definitely doesn't play with history with this aspect.

    Four Stars

    Reviewed 12/21/05

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