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The Foresight War
Anthony G. Williams
Authors Online, 336 pages

The Foresight War
Anthony G. Williams
Anthony G. Williams is a military technology historian. He is the author of Rapid Fire: The Development of Automatic Cannon, Heavy Machine Guns and their Ammunition for Armies, Navies and Air Forces, and the co-author of Assault Rifle: the Development of the Modern Military Rifle and its Ammunition (with Maxim Popenker) and the three-volume series Flying Guns: Development of Aircraft Guns, Ammunition and Installations (with Emmanuel Gustin). The Foresight War is his first novel.

Anthony G. Williams Website
ISFDB Bibliography

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Nathan Brazil

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'Time froze. The mother looked at her daughter's radiant face then, with a tumbling fall of dread, lifted her eyes to the sky. Her breath was punched from her body in a scream of utter horror and despair, as the coloured flares of the Target indicator fell gently to earth, all around them.'
A piece of advice often given to first time authors is, write what you know. Anthony G. Williams has followed this to the letter. The Foresight War is his first novel, although he has previously published several factual works as a military technology historian. Using his vast knowledge of the events and weaponry used during WWII, he projects an alternate stream of events, where the flow of history is changed by two men. They are Don Erlang and Professor Konrad Herrman, who are both accidental time travellers from 2004, that wake up one morning to find themselves in 1934. Herrman in Germany and Erlang in England. Both men are military historians, who adapt quickly to their new circumstances, and independently set out to change history as they knew it.

Erlang has with him a couple of examples of twenty-first century technology, including a working laptop computer. At the beginning, neither man knows of the other, but as events progress it becomes obvious to them that both sides have the advantage of someone from the future. At the beginning, neither man knows of the other, but as events progress it becomes obvious to them that both sides have the advantage of someone from the future. Erlang's main objective is to minimise the horrendous loss of life in the WW II that he is familiar with. His method is to make sure the British have meticulous advanced knowledge as to what technology should be fast tracked, how Germany was known to have developed the war in his time, and what tactical mistakes should be avoided. The latter include such things as persuading the British government not to declare war on Germany when the Nazis annex Poland.

Meanwhile, in pre-war Germany, Herrman has a different agenda. His personal experience of growing up in East Germany means that his main priority is to ensure that the German war against Russia is won.

Famous names from WWII crop up as regular characters, including main players Churchill, Hitler, and Rommel. Others, such as Roosevelt and Stalin, are spoken about but not seen in person. The historical cast stay true to character, just as history has portrayed them. This puts Konrad Herrman at a disadvantage, as he's constantly trying to deal with Nazi leaders whose fanaticism borders on mental illness. Don Erlang mostly gets his own way, but is frustrated to find that his original hope to avoid war entirely is unfeasible, as history up to that point makes conflict inevitable. What follows is a fast paced, easy to read story, heavy with technical detail and light on dialogue. Event after event shows the result of the time travellers influence on their leaders. The author has a precise, factually biased style of writing that explains what's necessary, but rarely goes more than a few steps beyond. The impression given, perhaps intentionally, is of a series of snapshots scattered between the larger, set piece encounters with alternate history. Among the latter is a different version of Pearl Harbor.

On the negative side, I was puzzled to find some of the leading characters and events from standard history were absent. For example, Martin Bormann, who according to my Encyclopaedia of the Third Reich was the most important man next to the Fuehrer during the declining days of the war, does not appear. Another unexplained AWOL is Rudolf Hess, deputy to the Fuehrer, who at one time was Hitler's appointed successor to Goering. Nor is there any clear view as to whether the Nazis were implementing their Final Solution, or what became of the projects being developed under the Wunderwaffen program, other than V1 and V2 rockets. Then there's the issue of what impact Erlang's modern PC would actually have had. Mention is made of its usefulness to the British code breakers, but to me its presence and potential as an agent of change seemed underplayed. However, none of these issues get in the way of the story, or make it any less enjoyable. The one serious flaw is a lack of characterisation, in particular with Erlang and Herrman, the time travellers. Neither of them ever question how they came to slip through time, if there might be a way back, or what has become of the future without them.

Both spend large amounts of the story being little more than walking text books, which at times left me feeling as if I was reading half a book. It was the half containing precise technical detail and accurate historical possibilities. The missing half, was the pure flight of imagination present in the best fictional stories, including characters who never lived but seem real. In future titles, I would hope that the author spends more time developing the skills of a novelist, or perhaps works in conjunction with someone whose primary talent is writing fiction. It would be a formidable combination.

In summary, The Foresight War is a highly plausible alternate take on history, which reads more like an alternate historical record, than a story set in another timeline.

Copyright © 2005 Nathan Brazil

Nathan Brazil
If Nathan Brazil were dyslexic, he'd be the dog of the Well world. In reality, he's an English bloke who lives on an island, reading, writing and throwing chips to the seagulls. Drop by his web site at www.inkdigital.org.


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