One Book. Two Stories. Both Compelling. This is a story with a LOT going on and a LOT of intricacies that it seems most (at least those on Goodreads so far, about 5 weeks before publication) miss out on touching on. This is effectively *both* a historical fiction (which I think it will ultimately be marketed as) of a young Jewish girl in WWII who leaves a diary behind (where does that ring a bell? 😉 ) *and* a modern day psychological drama. Valpy does a remarkable job of bringing a sensuous and visceral understanding of both periods of Casablanca and Morocco, and both periods and their relevant issues – WWII / Nazis / Resistance / Operation Torch and modern shipping conglomerates / expats / refugees / immigrants – are shown in a degree of realism not often seen. Truly, either story could have been expanded a bit more – perhaps by extending out the later chapters of both – and stood equally well as standalone books. Which is high praise, as few dual timeline historical fiction books can pull this off, in my own reading experience at least. Truly a remarkable book, and very much recommended.
Engaging Account Of Oft Overlooked Era. The period between D-Day (and the summer of 1944 generally) and the Battle of the Bulge (again, and winter 1944-45 generally) is one of the more overlooked eras of WWII, particularly in the zeitgeist of at minimum Americans. (I cannot speak to what Europeans think/ know, as I’ve never been closer to that continent than off the coast of the State of New Hampshire.) Here, King sets out to tell the tales of this overlooked period via numerous first hand accounts and other sources, showing through the eyes of the people that were there what was happening and through the other sources of history what was going on around those events. This is one of those books that will serve as a wakeup call to those who romanticize this particular war and these particular soldiers, as King makes the point quite well – and repeatedly – that given the pervasive and frequent abuses from *all* sides, there truly were truly few innocents involved in any angle of this, certainly of the adult (and even teenager/ young adult) variety. Even knowing that both of my grandfathers were there among some of these very events (both would survive the Bulge itself), I find King’s prose and commentary compelling here. He does a tremendous job of truly showing just how horrific this period was on *everyone* involved, not just the soldiers and not just the victims of the Holocaust – though he does indeed cover many of the horrors both of those groups saw in this period as well. Truly an outstanding book, and one anyone interested in WWII needs to read. Very much recommended.
Space. Nazis. In The Future! I didn’t think there was much new ground that The Modern Day Master of Science Fiction, Jeremy Robinson, had left to cover. I was wrong. He hadn’t covered space Nazis in the future yet, and that has now been corrected in truly awesome fashion. This one has everything you would expect from a tale of late 80s Special Forces soldiers being thrust 1,000 years into a future where the Nazis eventually came back, destroyed Earth… and are trying to take over the entire galaxy. Some Firefly, a good dose of WALL-E, and a few key callbacks to other previous Robinson books (easily explained in context, but then you’re going to want to go read those books too 🙂 ). And a pair of significant cameos at the end that could signal that Robinson is FINALLY about to give us another Avengers Level Event soon! All told, one of Robinson’s more fun books to date, which is saying quite a bit, and very much recommended.
Riveting and Illuminating. Despite being one of those “know a little about a lot” types, I fully admit that prior to reading this book, I didn’t know much about the Bismark or its sinking. I knew that it was the pride of the Nazi German Navy during WWII, that it was supposedly the most deadly ship afloat, and that it was sunk in a famous naval battle. Thus sums up my knowledge of the topic prior to reading this book. Yet Konstam does a deep dive into the full history of the Bismark and the events leading to its demise, and he does it in a very readable fashion almost akin to watching an actual movie about it. Thus, this naval historian – not exactly a group known for their readability outside their own circles – crafts a tale Tom Clancy would be hard pressed to top, even were he still alive. Truly excellent work. Very much recommended.
The End of the Beginning. This was an excellent tale of Dane Maddock and Uriah ‘Bones’ Bonebreak’s final mission as US Navy SEALs. As with the Star Wars prequel series, everything we have known that was specific to this era and would not continue into the next is resolved, while the things that do continue into the next era are set up nicely and alluded to hilariously. Truly an excellent tale that does all that it needs to do yet never feels burdened by the load at all, doing it all organically within the story itself.