cover image Fallout: The Hot War, Book 2

Fallout: The Hot War, Book 2

Harry Turtledove. Del Rey, $28 (432p) ISBN 978-0-553-39073-5

Turtledove returns to characters introduced in 2014’s Bombs Away in this overwrought thriller set in an alternate 1950. When the story opens, Paris has been obliterated by an A-bomb, and President Truman finds himself having to work with a difficult Charles de Gaulle in order to stand against the Russians and their campaign of terror. The long list of characters includes Gustav Hozzel, a WWI vet fighting the Red Army; his wife, Luisa, who has been taken to a Russian labor camp; Marian Staley, who lives in a U.S. refugee camp with her five-year-old daughter; Ihor Shevchenko, a Kiev farmer conscripted by the Red Army; and Cade Curtis, an American soldier. The characters are straight out of central casting, and the narrative is more a series of interconnected vignettes than a cohesive whole. The effects of radiation sickness and the psychological and physical toll of war are explored, but the obvious attempt at epic, old-fashioned adventure isn’t fully realized. Readers can take one thing away from the whole shebang: war is hell. Only diehard fans of the series need apply. Agent: Russell Galen, Scovil Galen Ghosh Literary Agency. (July)