Bombs Away: The Hot War
by Harry Turtledove
Cover Artist: based on an image by Dmity Ezepov / Shutterstock
Review by Bill Lawhorn
Del Rey Hardcover ISBN/ITEM#: 9780553390704
Date: 14 July 2015 List Price $28.00 Amazon US / Amazon UK
The fate of a nation was in the balance when the Chinese poured over the Korean border and pushed the American and NATO forces to the brink of disaster. MacArthur asks Truman for permission to unleash the full arsenal. Truman gives permission, not expecting to need to use it, nor the reaction from the Soviet Union. As can be garnered by the title, what was a cold war, becomes hot. Once the bombs start flying, there may be no simple end in sight.
Although only a few years have passed since the end of the Second World War, technology has continued to advance. Vehicles that were nearly unstoppable in that war are now obsolete. Deceit and stubbornness and new tactics push this new war. The devastation may be such that there will be no future for anyone or any nation. The pure amount of destruction may result in the end of the world for all living creatures.
The characters whose experiences help the story unfold are all over the world from the Korean peninsula and sunny California to the misty shores of England. Most people in any war are just trying to survive. This isn't easy when worlds are burned. In a few cases the perspective switches to that of great leaders to show the decisions that will seal the fate of the world. But amidst the chaos, little things happen to people that make life better, but in most cases, the positive always comes with a negative.
One of the best things about this novel is that it is not part of a greater series, so there are no barriers to the story. Although there is room for another story, I like the ending as it stands. Some basic knowledge of the Korean War can help readers, but the divergence happens early on and the action goes far from what happened in the historical record. This is Turtledove at his best.
This novel definitely explores the darker side of humanity. The people of this time have not progressed, so some of the language may be offensive, but it is appropriate to the period. The choices made by the major leaders of the time seem to be reasonable and shows how close our own time was to death and destruction. People complain about how video games inure people to violence, but the total warfare of WWII left little compassion. Leaders of allied nations, get swept up in the chaos.
This is a standard Turtledove multiple POV novel told through the eyes of people living through events. It is similar to works like his How Few Remain, The War that Came Early, or 1882: Custer in Chains by Robert Conroy. This is a slightly different time than is heavily examined. Although there are some similarities to the later parts of Joe Steele. Which is also worth a read.