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John Birmingham

Axis of Time, book 3

Pan Macmillan Australia (2006)

ISBN: 9780330423397

Reviewed by Lorraine Cormack (this review was first published in September 2007)

Final Impact is the final novel in a trilogy that tells the story of a world in which World War II is disrupted when a military Taskforce from the 2020s is accidentally thrown back in time by an experiment goes wrong. The Taskforce lands in the middle of the Allied fleet en route to the Battle of Midway. Once the resulting firefight has ceased, and the confusion sorted out, the Taskforce sets its eyes on ensuring that the Allies win World War II, as they “should”. Unfortunately the Taskforce has already considerably warped the original course of the war; and even more unfortunately, some parts of the Taskforce have fallen into the hands of Axis powers, meaning they too have access to historical records about the outcome of the war and particular battles; and access to technical information about weapons not yet invented.

One area where Birmingham has remained consistent with the “real” World War II is in the personalities of the main players – people such as Hitler, Stalin, Himmler, Churchill. He has used this as the crux of how the war ultimately turns out – whatever knowledge they all have, however the original course of the war has been derailed, these people still make decisions in the same way they originally did. They still suffer from the same personality defects and strengths, and this influences the final outcome. Read the rest of this entry »

John Birmingham

Axis of Time, book 2

Pan Macmillan Australia (2005)

ISBN: 9780345457158

Reviewed by Lorraine Cormack (this review was first published in September 2007)

Designated Targetsis the second book in a trilogy that tells the story of a military taskforce from the 21st century, who are accidentally thrown back in time 80 years, finding themselves in the middle of World War II. In the confusion of the initial “Transition”, as the accident comes to be known, the Taskforce inadvertently does considerable damage to the Allied fleet heading to the Battle of Midway – not a great start to their new lives in the 1940s.

Birmingham has essentially sidestepped all of the usual time travel paradoxes by simply asserting that once the Taskforce had landed in the 1940s, it was a parallel world to their own. That means they don’t have to worry too much about anything they do affecting the future; and that’s a good thing, because these people are less than subtle in their impact on the world. One thing they’re certain about, and that’s that they want to make sure the Allies win the war. But if they could also do that with less loss of Allied life, and without letting some of the horrors such as the Japanese Prisoner of War camps or the Nazi Extermination camps, that would be a good thing. Read the rest of this entry »

John Birmingham

Axis of Time, book 1

Pan Macmillan Australia (2006)

ISBN: 9780330421898

Reviewed by Lorraine Cormack (this review was first published in August 2007)

I was rather disappointed by this novel, in part because I’d enjoyed other novels by Birmingham and expected to find the same pleasure in this one. I didn’t; ultimately what let Birmingham down was his characterisation, rather than his ideas, plotting or prose. Weapons of Choice is a reasonably good novel, and many people will enjoy it, but I felt it fell short of what it could have achieved.

This is the first novel of a trilogy. In this novel, a near future military taskforce is accidentally thrown back in time by an experiment gone wrong. They land right in the middle of the US fleet heading to the Battle of Midway, and the fleet and the taskforce promptly proceed to shoot each other up. Once the initial confusion is resolved, it becomes clear that there are two essential problems. One is how to ensure the Allies win World War Two as they’re “supposed” to; and the other is the impact of the cultural attitudes of taskforce members on people of the 1940s. No-one seriously thinks the taskforce can be returned to their own time, so this isn’t treated as a problem.

The novel runs into trouble early. Birmingham transports the taskforce through time almost immediately. This makes sense; since the story he wants to tell is in the 1940s, there’s little value in hanging about the 2020s. Unfortunately, the shooting starts about thirty seconds after they arrive in 1942. We’re treated to around 100 pages of people we don’t yet know shooting at and killing each other. It’s probably an accurate rendition of what would happen, and it’s vividly written. But it’s also essentially boring and somewhat confusing as we simply haven’t had the chance to get to know these people or even sort them out completely. Read the rest of this entry »

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