1945: A Novel
by Robert Conroy
Edited by Tim Mak
Cover Artist: Chris Gibbs
Review by Bill Lawhorn
Ballantine Paperback ISBN/ITEM#: 9780345494795
Date: 29 May 2007 List Price $14.95 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /
The bombs have fallen on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. America knows the end is near. Emperor Hirohito has hinted that he is willing to surrender. The Japanese military didn't agree and were ready to prevent this from happening. War minister general Korechika Anami has a choice to make -- support his emperor or those who wish to continue the war.
In our timeline Anami chose to support his emperor. But what if he had supported the other side? Robert Conroy explores this outcome in this volume. Operation downfall, the invasion of the home islands was planned and expected to be a brutal campaign. The invasion would start on the island of Kyushu. Closer to supplies and manpower the Japanese will be able to inflict greater damage on its' potential conquerors. As the war continues, the Allies begin to fragment as their own desires become increasingly important. Troops who expected to go home were now going to have to fight a determined enemy.
This story unfolds through the eyes of both the great and small. Perspectives range from the upper echelon of command to the lowliest of ex prisoners of war. They also are from both sides of the battle. The short term perspectives of generally doomed pilots, sailors, and soldiers are interspersed with main characters as the story evolves to create a better understanding of events.
This the third Robert Conroy book related to specific years. In 1901 and 1862 he told of other alternative invasions. I believe that 1945 surpasses these earlier tales. This volume doesn't have some of the flaws that marred the earlier tales. The Japanese are not paper enemies that make huge blunders. I also appreciated the clear problem that nuclear bombs faced when there weren't clear targets of opportunity. You can't bomb Tokyo or Kyoto, because there might not be an organized group to surrender if you wipe out the government.
I definitely approved of the throw away characters. They are able to advance the plot without forcing the reader to go through a large number of characters that don't do much for most of the story. The use of disposable characters keeps the action and story moving without bogging down in details or being forced to develop too much character. Too many authors are doing stories with too many continuous points of view. Although the throw away moments can get a little distracting; they bring out important information that the main character can't really explain easily.
I also enjoy that this is a stand alone book. There are too many multivolume series currently. It is nice to read a one and done. No wondering when the next volume will be available. It is okay to wonder what happened to the characters next, but you just have to use your imagination.
Conroy also does a pretty good job developing his characters, but MacArthur fans beware. He has no qualms of expressing and showing MacArthur's flaws and quirks. I am not sure how fair a representation of him that it is, but he doesn't pull too many punches.
The point of departure seems fairly reasonable in this case. The Introduction by Conroy does a very good job of explaining where our time lines diverged. This is a solid story that should be appreciated by fans of Alternate History.