Stuart Slade – The Big One (2007)
This is not a music album, although arguably an album based on it could be a fun derivative work. Furthermore, I usually don’t do book reviews; it should be evident from the fact this is the first time I’ve done such a thing on my blog. Seriously, though… while it was in desperate need of good copyediting, and there were some extraneous bits that I don’t really feel contributed to the main plot, this book grabbed my interest in a way that I don’t think any other has since I picked up Kim Stanley Robinson’s The Years of Rice and Salt.
The Big One falls clearly into the alternate history genre (which, if you’ve been paying attention, you’ll know I have some interest in); it’s set in an alternate World War II where Germany was far more successful early on, Japan never got the chance to properly participate, and the USA relied primarily on its air force and navy to project power. By 1947, a stalemate develops, and the main plot of the story focuses on a massive American atomic bombing run on the heart of Nazi Germany. One thing that’s rather notable is that at all points, the eventual outcome of this event is telegraphed by scenes comparing the overall state of the Allied and Axis military forces; despite this, the book still had me interested because I wanted to know the gritty details.
Part of this attention is due to the many technical details Stuart Slade provides; he has experience as a military analyst in both naval and aerospace fields, and it shows. Being a bit of a WW2 aviation buff myself, I particularly enjoyed seeing how Slade incorporated various equipment from both sides of the war into the book. Amongst other things, it gave me a sense of the rapid technological progress aviation was going through – not Moore’s Law fast, but still. As such, the book is strongest when it focuses on these things, which are particularly important to the main plot. There are a few subplots concerning other developments in the world, like a German pilot’s desperate suicide attack on an aircraft carrier, and the attempts of the British colonies to secure their way in the evolving world, but these are honestly not as interesting, as they seem to be of limited relevance to the story at hand, although it seems they do set up for the other books in this series. Either way, I figure they’re more interesting there, but they don’t detract too much from the main story due to their limited length. The final product is good enough that I plan to acquire the other titles in the series as money or library availability permits.