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Axis of Time Trilogy
John Birmingham
Del Rey, 512, 448 and 384 pages
Volume 1 Weapons of Choice
Volume 2 Designated Targets
Volume 3 Final Impact

John Birmingham
John Birmingham was born in 1964 in Liverpool UK and migrated to Australia with his parents in 1970. He grew up in Ipswich, Queensland. He attended the St Edmunds Christian Brother's College in Ipswich, and the University of Queensland in Brisbane. His only stint of full time employment was as a researcher at the Defence Department. After this he returned to Queensland to study law but he did not complete his legal studies, choosing instead to pursue a career as a writer. He currently lives in Brisbane.

John Birmingham Website
ISFDB Bibliography

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Peter D. Tillman

Weapons of Choice
Designated Targets
Final Impact
I've now read all three of John Birmingham's Axis of Time novels -- which amount to one long novel, so don't start at #3! -- and warmly recommend the books to military SF and alternate history fans. To reprise, a naval task force from 2021 is diverted to 1942 by a DARPA teleportation experiment gone spectacularly wrong. In the confusion of the transition, the moderns sink most of Admiral Spruance's fleet, enroute to the Battle of Midway. Oops....

The three books go on to re-fight WW2, and to show once again that the oldest cliché can look fresh in the hands of a good writer with a new approach. Birmingham's innovation here is that the world of 1942 suddenly knows how the next eighty years would play out, if nothing changes. So the Big Losers -- Hitler, Tojo and Stalin -- are frantically trying to rewrite history to keep from going down in flames "again." And the winners must guard their "historic" victory... It's a riveting, twisty, violent story, and man, do those pages turn.

The Axis of Time is a good reminder of just how bad the mid-20th century was, and just how monstrous Hitler and Stalin were. And how warfare brings out the best -- and worst -- in "good" people (and bad). Some of the expedients to which the "good guys" resort to win, are appalling. Which isn't to say, not necessary....

Birmingham's near-future is a rather grim place, and the interactions of 2021 with 1942 are very nicely done. The past is a different country, and the multi-racial men and women warriors from the 21st century make the folk of 1942 very uncomfortable. And vice-versa.

Birmingham, a well-known Australian humorist, is making his first venture into SF here. He's done his homework, and he's an exceptionally good storyteller. The Axis of Time books are thoughtful page-turners. His writing style and pacing are still a little rough, and there's a huge plot-logic flaw in the first book. The books still rock. Start with the first, Weapons of Choice, and you'll soon know if the series suits your taste.

Book #3, Final Impact, ends with the end of WW2 -- the three books are marked as WW2.1, 2.2 and 2.3 in the Birmoverse -- but with little resolution, which has upset some readers. Birmingham has a contract to continue the series into the Cold War (CW1.1, 1.2), with the next book scheduled for Fall 2007 (Australia). I'll be reading it. And you should read trilogy. Not perfect books, but pretty darned good.

Copyright © 2007 Peter D. Tillman

Pete Tillman has been reading SF for better than 40 years now. He reviews SF -- and other books -- for Amazon, Infinity-Plus, SF Site, and others. He's a mineral exploration geologist based in Arizona. Google "Peter D. Tillman" +review for many more of Pete's reviews.

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