First of my summer brain candy

So after plowing through so much excellent history the first few months of the year, I needed a bit of a brain break.  I decided to turn to my favorite literary genre, Alternate History.

Now, as I have previously written, I really enjoy a well written, well thought out, and realistic alternate history book, and I actually think they could serve as good teaching tools if properly used.  Most "professional" historians have a general disdain bordering on snobbery for these types of books, but that's okay, because most of them think Obama's the greatest President of the last 50 years.

Anyway, I first read Robert Conroy's debut novel 1901 several years ago, and quite frankly felt a little disappointed.  It was okay, but not great, and I thought the premise of the book was a little....well...out there...after all, the Germans invade the U.S.?  Figure the odds.

However, I like to keep an open mind, so I choose two of his latest books from the library.  Some small spoilers ahead...but not too bad.

 Himmler's War takes an interesting twist on the "What if Hitler died in 1944?" twist by not using the usual story line of the July 20 plot succeeding, but rather killing Hitler off in a random air strike.  The resulting coup by Heinrich Himmler has some subtle but significant changes as the German Army begins fighting a stubborn delaying action that alters, but does not change the ultimate outcome of the war.  Conroy does a pretty good job of showing how the ultimate outcome was never really in doubt, just the ultimate cost, which is why this was a pretty good book.
1945 has an even better, and more realistic, plot twist.  Most Americans, being highly ignorant of history, don't realize how close the ending of World War II came to disaster.  A cabal of Japanese officers tried to overthrow Emperor Hirohito before he could surrender the Japanese to the Americans and ALMOST succeeded.  As Conroy excellently shows, a minor change of heart by a key Japanese general could have had huge consequences.  This book is based on a lot of recent research about the ACTUAL situation and correlation of Japanese and American forces in August 1945 and shows that even the vaunted American atomic bomb was a one-shot wonder that would have had limited actual utility in an invasion of Japan.  This is an excellent book that shows how close the Japanese nation came to virtual annihilation.

I have to say I enjoyed both books a lot.  Conroy has progressed a long way, in my opinion, in his character development, descriptive writing, and the depth of his research.  He does an excellent job of integrating actual historical figures with his fictional characters, and the small tweaks he makes to history cause some fascinating down stream effects. 

I look forward to reading more of Mr. Conroy's work...he has moved up a notch on my scale of writers in my favorite genre.