by Harry Turtledove
Reviewed by Steven H Silver
Fallout is the second novel in Harry Turtledove’s Hot War series, exploring a third World War following a Korean War which saw a nuclear attack on the Chinese city of Harbin. Bombs Away, the first volume, saw numerous atomic bombs dropped on cities throughout Asia, Europe, and North America, a situation which continues in this book. The falling bombs impact people’s lives, whether they have them dropped on (or near) them or whether they are doing the dropping.
Turtledove continues to present a variety of points of view, which allows him to offer some interesting juxtapositions. Luisa Hozzel’s experiences in a Russian camp are quite different than those of Marian Staley’s life in a displaced person’s camp. Luisa’s life in Russia and Vasily Yasevich’s life are very different, suggesting that freedom in the Soviet Union has less to do with being in a camp. Boris Gribkov’s bomber crew is having a very different war than Bruce McNulty, an American stationed in England.
While the different characters allow the novel to present plenty of action in the European and Korean theatres, it also means that Turtledove can explore the more human aspects of war. Long after the death of her husband, Marian may be able to find love again in a displaced persons camp just as Daisy Baxter may find herself willing to consider love with one of the Americans stationed near her British pub. Others aren’t so lucky. The war is just as likely to tear families apart through death, conscription, or politics, often the same people who manage to find promise in the new world.
The Hot War series has lot in common with many of Turtledove’s other war-based series, but it also is very different. His Hot War looks at a period that Turtledove (and other authors) have not explored as thoroughly as the second World War (or the Civil War) and therefore has a welcome freshness about it. The battles and alliances of Fallout are not like any Turtledove has previously explored. They are made even more interesting by the fact that many of the alliances are between people who were enemies (and vice versa) not too long before, and they (and the reader) are constantly aware of the new détente that exists.
Fallout moves the stories of its large variety of characters forward, although a few characters do find their stories suddenly ended, but it doesn’t yet point to any firm conclusion, one of the issues with being a middle novel in a lengthy series. Most of the characters and their situations were established in Bombs Away, however, which means that their lives, personalities, and interactions can be more fully examined in this book, even as we have some hints (perhaps) of where their stories are leading.
Bombs Away provided the introduction and Fallout allows the war, the characters, and the world take shape, pointing to the future novels which will continue to explore this war in which nuclear attacks are practically common, even as the men who carry them out begin to question their effectiveness and their own role in this history they are helping to create.
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