The Man with the Iron Heart
by Harry Turtledove
Cover Artist: Big Dot Design
Review by Bill Lawhorn
Del Rey Hardcover ISBN/ITEM#: 9780345504340
Date: 22 July 2008 List Price $27.00 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /
One man can make a difference. May 29, 1942 Reichsprotektor Reinhard Heydrich survives an assassination attempt, when the assassin's gun jams. From this point, the world is a different place. When Stalingrad falls in 1943, preparations begin to carry on fighting if Germany is forced to surrender.
In our timeline, planning for the resistance was late and not well handled. In this timeline, Heydrich handles the planning. Large caches of weapons are prepared. Underground bunkers are set up to house the leaders of the resistance.
When victory is declared in Europe, America celebrates. The war is over, but unfortunately the fighting isn't. When Diana McGraw gets the Western Union telegram informing her of her son's death, she begins a crusade to bring the troops home. The movement to bring them home creates tension with the Truman administration and the European allies.
In the Soviet zone, the uprising is handled as ruthlessly as the Nazi's handled the Red uprisings in Russia and the Ukraine. Stalin has Germans shot and shipped to gulags as punishment. Wholesale relocation is used to try to quell the situation. Despite the severity of the punishments, the attacks continue.
There is a question of how much will the American's take before they pull out. The Soviets seem willing to purge the whole country. The Nazi's want to be back in power, so they can pay back their enemies.
There are multiple points of view in the novel. Some are continuing, others are available to show a specific situation. The main characters that are continuous are Heydrich, Diana McGraw, Vladimir Bokov, Tom Schmidt, Lou Weissburg, and Jerry Duncan. Each is in place to see significant events or play a role in creating them.
The situation created in this book is eerily similar to the one that the U.S. faces today in Iraq. There is an ongoing resistance that is costing American lives. Some people do not feel it is worth the lives being lost. Others claim that the situation will be worse if left to fester.
I note that I am not sure I agree with the author's choice of American reaction to continued terrorist attacks by the Nazi partisans. The U.S. seems to be reacting with modern sensibilities. I deeply believe that the U.S. policy would have been much harsher than the one portrayed in this novel. I believe that in the face of an ongoing terrorist movement, Truman would have been willing to use the bomb on Germany to quell the resistance.
I did enjoy this book. It made me think about what I believe. It gave me an opportunity to reflect on how I feel about the current wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and how we as a Nation are reacting. The nature of the press is also brought into question. 1946 is not 2008, nor should it be. Individuals have to make choices and live with the consequences. The difference lies in what is considered acceptable. The wholesale firebombing of Tokyo was considered acceptable in the 1940s. An errant missile that kills a cow is considered unacceptable today. War is a brutal thing to be avoided, but once you are forced to fight, win. Of course what is winning? I just love the vagaries of war.