cover image Bombs Away

Bombs Away

Harry Turtledove. Del Rey, $28 (448p) ISBN 978-0-553-39070-4

Alternate-history master Turtledove (the War That Came Early series) comes up with another widescreen epic for his latest what-if scenario. It’s 1950 and the Chinese have invaded Korea. President Truman retaliates by dropping atomic bombs on strategic targets in Manchuria. Things get quickly out of hand, and Russia begins dropping A-bombs on targets in Europe and the U.S., which turns the Cold War into a hot war after only five years. To illustrate his scenario, Turtledove introduces a wide-ranging cast of one-and-a-half dimensional characters on several continents, including Marian Staley, a housewife with a husband serving in Korea, who must flee with her young daughter after nearby Seattle is nuked; Gustav Hozzel, a WWII veteran who faces Soviet tanks with Molotov cocktails when the Russians invade Germany; and Boris Gribkov, a Russian Tu-4 pilot whose bomber is retrofitted with stolen American recognition technology. The novel leapfrogs from combat scene to strategy session to military briefing and ends on an abrupt note, obviously paving the way for a sequel. But the chaotic, seemingly plotless narrative is less than satisfying to any reader who wants a dramatic payoff to all this old-school shock and awe. Agent: Russell Galen, Scovil Galen Ghosh Literary Agency. (July)