How Hitler’s Assassination Leads to the Development of Germany’s Atomic Bomb
Genre: historical fiction
Target audience: adults
Review by Anachronist
Synopsis (from Goodreads):
Hermann Göering, Joseph Goebbels, Heinrich Himmler and Martin Bormann are also dead. And the leader of the assassination plot, Colonel Claus von Stauffenberg, is the new Chancellor of Germany.
Stauffenberg unleashes Germany’s wonder weapons, the Messerschmitt 262 jet fighter, the Arado 234 Blitz Bomber, and the Type 21 super submarine. But it may be too late. The massive Soviet army is marching relentlessly to the west. And the Americans and British are bombing Germany day and night, wrecking its war machine, killing hundreds of thousands, and paving the way for an invasion in 1944.
Germany is running out of time. But it still has one super weapon left, and that’s the atomic bomb, originally approved by Hitler in 1934 but abandoned by him in 1940. Professor Werner Heisenberg and his team of nuclear scientists, now decimated by Hitler’s anti-Jewish hysteria, are Germany’s only hope.
Can Germany snatch victory from the jaws of defeat by unlocking the secrets of the atomic bomb before the scientists of the Manhattan Project? Can this terrible weapon be used against the Americans and the British to force them out of the war, and then smash the Soviet Union? Can Hitler’s dream of a thousand-year Reich be achieved even as his ashes lie at the bottom of a lake on the outskirts of Berlin?
What I liked:
I certainly was impressed by the historical premise and the author’s imagination. Mr Cox tried to answer the question what would happen if the last attempt to assassinate Hitler while having a conference in the Wolf’s Lair headquarters actually succeeded. The era pf WWII is often an enticing subject, at least to me. Mr. Cox even continued his story till nearly contemporary times although he did it in a rather sketchy way. Still I am sure it took him a lot of preparation and it seems he did his homework and then some. For example his military knowledge concerning weaponry used during WWII is, as far as I know, extensive At the end of the book Cox presents e.g. information regarding some technological problems, including the Junkers jet engines and their short operating life time.
What I didn’t like:
Firstly let me say that, as a reader, I had huge issues with the way of narration was led. We are told about different dramatic events just “overhearing” the conversation of three friends, one of them condemned to death and awaiting an execution in a prison cell. Leaving aside the question whether a man who is going to die in just few hours would like to lead such a conversation at all, I must admit that I didn’t enjoy being a fly on the wall. It also bugged me that so many chapters were introduced by a well-worn phrase:” It started like this…” or “ It looks like it happened this way…” which made me think of these old silent movies with faded-out jumps between particular parts. Perhaps it is just me but in my very humble opinion a normal, typically novel narration (like third or first person) would work definitely better.
Also the characters were cardboard thin and underdeveloped to say the least of it. It’s a pity we almost never know what they think and how they feel, we just listen to them and see them doing this or doing that. There was a very weak attempt at describing some romance in the second part of the book, between one of the main characters, Johann Rinehard, and a voluptuous Swedish nurse. It revealed how painfully cumbersome the writing style was – we are given firstly a rough description of Rinehard’s recovery, featuring the said nurse but just as a prop, and then, all of a sudden, bam, we are in the middle of a sex scene. It was so artificial that it made me laugh out loud. While the author can defend himself describing action scenes, romance is definitely not his cup of tea and he should steer clear of it or get some training. Overall I had a feeling I was reading a movie script, not a novel. Once again it was a pity because there was certainly a lot of material for a fully-fledged, enthralling historical thriller.
Now a bit about history. I am far from being an expert on the World War II or Hitler but I had some issues. Firstly, in order to have the technology available for the development of a German atomic bomb Cox stated that the origin of German atomic research happened two years earlier than it really took place. He also places the assassination plot in November of 1943 so about 8 months before the July 20, 1944 date of the actual attempt by Count von Stauffenberg, at the “Wolf’s Lair” headquarters in East Prussia (currently Poland). This date actually coincides with another actual attempt on Hitler’s life, organized by Axel Freiherr von dem Bussche-Streithorst but that officer was never mentioned in the book.
Taking into account the fact that there had been about 20 attempts on Hitler’s life before November 1943 and he never moved anywhere without an active corps of bodyguards, it was unlikely that any assassination attempt would have gone as smoothly as Cox has it happen. After getting rid of Hitler and his cronies everything goes on very smoothly – which is as far from the reality as you can get. I know this book is just a fiction but still…
This book was a bit of a damp squib. It is unfortunate that something with such an interesting premise ends up providing you with definitely less than you expected.