Red Inferno: 1945: A Novel
by Robert Conroy
Review by Bill Lawhorn
Ballantine Books Paperback ISBN/ITEM#: 9780345506061
Date: 23 February 2010 List Price $15.00 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /
The war is almost over, but not all is well between the allies. As the allies make the final push towards each other and Berlin, many plans are made and discarded. There is great mistrust between the communists and western democracies. A misunderstanding, an unexpected deployment, and an overreaction lead to a new war before the old one is finished.
Late in the War, the allies were deciding whether to cross the Elbe River or hold the line there. In the real timeline, that is just what they did. But what if they had crossed the Elbe? This novel explores that possibility. Elements of the 9th Army push across the Elbe and move towards the suburbs of Berlin. The lead elements push further than ordered and are attacked. Of course, the Russians blame the allied forces. The trailing parts of the force are shattered but retreat and fortify Potsdam. The defenses set up are formidable, but not impregnable. But rather than take the time to take Potsdam, the Russians push over the Elbe and engage the Allies there.
There are several points of view used to show how the events affect the people of the world. The main characters are Sergeant Jack Logan a soldier in Potsdam, Steve Burke a Russian Specialist, Elizabeth Wolf an American trapped in Nazi Germany, Tony the Toad an American soldier trapped behind enemy line and Marshall Suslov the commander of the Soviet forces around Potsdam. Others characters take precedence as needed.
The fight doesn't go as planned for either side. The world that will develop will be very different from our own. The concessions needed for victory will give old enemies new chances and the Soviet Union will never be the same. As a standalone novel, there are no other novels that need to be read first. There is no connection to any of his previous works. Each can be appreciated on its own. The singular nature of this work makes it standout in a world where it seems every new novel is just a piece of a much larger body of work. I appreciate knowing that going into a new Conroy book, that it is a complete picture and not just a small portion.
Fans of alternate history will find something worth reading here. The take on the end of WWII is interesting and based on plans that were made but never implemented. Fans of The War That Came Early series should enjoy this novel as well.
This is the fifth novel by Conroy each based on the events of a single year. It is also his best to date. He continues to develop as a writer and I expect future novels to continue to get better. Some of his earlier works suffered a bit from improbability. His scenarios are improving. I look forward to his next year.