cover image To Wake the Giant

To Wake the Giant

Jeff Shaara. Ballantine, $29.99 (512p) ISBN 978-0-593-12962-3

Shaara (Gods and Generals) dutifully dramatizes the run-up to the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in a well-researched if overstuffed narrative. Secretary of State Cordell Hull is involved in some intricate diplomacy with Japanese Ambassador Nomura, trying to ascertain Japan’s true intentions in the Pacific. At the same time, Adm. Isoroku Yamamoto puts into play his plan to attack the U.S. fleet at Pearl Harbor. The reader also meets Tommy Biggs, a young “hospital apprentice” assigned to the ill-fated battleship Arizona; Takeo Yoshikawa, a Japanese spy who arrives on Oahu under diplomatic cover; and Joseph Rochefort, a cryptanalyst who is trying to decode the Japanese navy’s secret signals traffic. They are all on a collision course as the clock ticks down to the attack, which is depicted in a thrilling you-are-there recreation. But first, the reader must plod through chapters of wooden conversations, most devoid of dramatic punch. Though the period details are convincing, Shaara’s novel adds nothing new or revelatory in its take on a well-known event. Still, diehard fans of military fiction will find much to enjoy. (May)