by Robert Conroy
Cover Artist: Kurt Miller
Review by Jon Guenther
Baen Mass Market Paperback ISBN/ITEM#: 9781476736143
Date: 29 October 2013 List Price $7.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK
I have to admit as a reader (and writer) I'm not a fan of all the sub-genres that have materialized in the science fiction and fantasy genres over the past decade. I particularly avoided alternate history yarns, until I read and reviewed The Last Full Measure by Jack Campbell. So what prompted me to want to read Rising Sun I cannot say--but I'm sure glad I did.
Here, the author decides to approach alternate history by proposing what might have changed if the U.S. Pacific fleet charged with seizing Midway had been destroyed by the Japanese, rather than their overwhelming and what some historians call miraculous victory, which included sinking four Japanese carriers. This is something the author explains in an introduction to the book, and I for one appreciated the information so I could get context instead of having to guess.
I found the protagonist, Tim Dane, a likable character and his saving the life of Admiral Spruance in the opening chapter an entertaining start. By the second chapter, in almost true pulp fiction fashion, Mr. Conroy introduces us to the key female player, Amanda Mallard, a nurse and predictable love interest for our unseasoned hero. From this jumping off point, the book then took me on a thrill ride unlike any I'd experienced in other books with similar story lines.
I felt the characters, overall, were a key factor in the entertainment value of the novel. So many of the alternate history books I've read really don't seem to do justice to the original character creations, and this results in a less than glossy story. The author chose not to do that with Rising Sun and I, for one, am quite grateful to him. Even the villains in the story weren't cardboard cut-outs; there was a humanity to them and they acted in large part like real soldiers and officers do in times of war.
One con I found a bit distracting was the author's habit of information dumps. When done in some cases, such as the strategy sessions between Dane (he gets promoted to Lt. Commander for saving Spruance's life) and the intelligence staff, it kept me reading. In other scenes, there were more pages of expository data or internalization than probably necessary. But of course, this tends to be a failing in many alternate history tales.
All told, I have to give credit to this book as probably one of the best alternate history novels I've read. For the most part, Mr. Conroy didn't hold back the entertainment and there were some pretty surprising twists in plot toward the end. Even if you do not particularly like alternate history SF, I would recommend giving Rising Sun a try if you love war-time adventures. I'm betting it will surprise you as much as it did me.