Monday, 16 March 2009

Weapons of Choice: World War 2.1 by John Birmingham

Scientists hey? Sometimes they should really know better and when to leave stuff alone. Unfortunately nobody told a group of scientists this in Weapons of choice the first book in the Axis of Time trilogy by John Birmingham and in 2021 a experiment by a research ship goes horribly, horribly wrong.

The scientists don’t live to realise their mistake, heck they don’t live long enough to realise anything has actually gone wrong but their experiment leads to a international task force of warships to be thrown through dimensions into a earth identical to our own.

But that’s not all, their also thrown through time as well arriving during the Battle of Midway in the Second world war. Due to a misunderstanding, with the ships crews incapacitated their AI’s wipe out most of the US Pacific fleet. In an instant the balance of power is changed.

The newly arrived UN warships can wipe out whole fleets single handed and they also know what’s about to happen. But their ammunition is limited and they can’t go home. The axis forces are hostile and their ‘home nations’ even more so.

But things aren’t as simple as they appear.

Some of the UN ships were scattered with some missing. The Japanese seize two, leading to one of the more memorable sequences in the book where a ship is discovered fused into the top of a mountain. Now all sides have access to records and technological date decades ahead of their own.

As some UN personnel despair, others thrive in the new circumstances and start to find their feet in this strange new world. But enemies are gathering on both sides determined not to let the UN forces destroy the status quo.

Weapons of choice is a very exciting ‘alternate history’ novel if a little slow to get going as it’s obvious the author is setting the scene for subsequent novels. The ‘real life’ cameos are quite amusing, from Prince Harry to Churchill, to an AI who speaks in ‘Posh spices’ voice.

Some of the novel does not make easy reading, especially the sexism and racism displayed by the 1940s characters, but only as we’re seeing it ‘through modern eyes’. So it does rings true to characters from that time as they considered it normal, the idea of a woman in combat is inconceivable to them.

So I would give it a four out of five and I’m interested to see where the Author will be going with this series and if he can keep up the high standard he has set in this novel.

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