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29 of 31 people found the following review helpful
on May 31, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and historian William R. Forstchen have combined to write this exciting novel about the coming of war in the Pacific, as well as a chilling description of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. But this time, the Japanese finish the job.

The story is told through the eyes of Commander James Watson, USN and Lieutenant Commander Cecil Stanford, Royal Navy. Both men work in cryptology, and, through the course of the book, travel all over the world. They even end up meeting Commander Mitsuo Fuchida, the Japanese pilot who would eventually lead the attack on Pearl Harbor.

Throughout the course of the book, the reader learns, through Watson's and Stanford's eyes, about such events as the Japanese invasion of China, the rape of Nanking, and the sinking of the American gunboat Panay. All of these events set the Japanese, Americans, and British on a collision course toward war.

The story of the attack on Pearl Harbor only encompasses about a quarter of the book, but the story is amazing, and makes the reader wonder what would have really happened had the Japanese attack materialized in the manner conceived by Gingrich and Forstchen. In this fictionalized version of the attack, the Japanese have removed Admiral Nagumo from command of the Japanese striking force. Admiral Yamamoto himself has sailed forth with the strike force. Perhaps the most glaring narrative of the book is the description of a third attack wave. During the actual Pearl Harbor attack, the Japanese launched only two attacks then turned for home waters, not wanting to risk detection by the Americans. In this story, the Japanese actually launch a third wave, and the results for the Americans are devastating: More ships are sunk, the harbor channel is bottled up, the oil tanks are destroyed, and, perhaps most destructive of all, the huge floating dry dock is destroyed by aerial torpedo attack.

I've read many books about the actual attack on Pearl Harbor, and I've wondered why the Japanese never launched a third wave to finish the job. After reading this account of what could have happened, I'm glad that the Japanese didn't launch the third wave. Even though this book is only a fictionalized account, the authors show the amount of potential additional damage that could have been achieved had the Japanese actually launched a third wave.

I give this book my highest recommendation. The story is very good, and the historical basis used to develop the story is excellent. I especially liked the development of the characters of Watson and Cecil. Their inclusion in the actual events that occurred in the early 1930s until the Japanese attack made the book much more enjoyable. The description of the Japanese attack, complete with the fictional third wave, is handled extremely well and leaves the reader with a sense of relief that the Japanese didn't actually use a third wave in 1941. If you're a fan of Pearl Harbor history, then don't miss this exciting book; it gives a view of the Pearl Harbor attack that we should be thankful never actually occurred.
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29 of 32 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon October 16, 2007
Format: Hardcover
In any story about the Pearl Harbor attack, the attack itself is going to be one of the central "characters," and the narrative of the attack is almost inevitably going to be the most dramatic part of the plot. That's just as well in this case, as I found "Pearl Harbor" by Gingrich and Forstchen to be an interesting and mildly thought-provoking novel despite being weighed down by characters to whom the reader develops (or at least this reader developed) very little personal or emotional connection.

This is an "alternative history" novel of sorts, but not the kind that assumes time travel or poses "counterfactuals" like Wendell Willkie winning the election in 1940. In fact, the point at which fiction diverges from fact in "Pearl Harbor" is so subtle that readers unfamiliar with the Pearl Harbor attack run the risk, I imagine, of never noticing where the split happened. The road the authors have taken, though, is a plausible one, and the consequences of that difference flow logically. It's this element I'm looking forward to seeing explored further in later books in the promised series.

What was far less satisfying, however, was the authors' character development and, frankly, their writing. For one thing, this could have used at least one more pass by a good editor to catch spelling errors ("chocks" versus "chokes;" "terra incognito"), anachronisms (would Winston Churchill really have described someone as "outside the loop" [p. 270]?), and repeated descriptions, phrases, or actions -- if I had a drink every time Fuchida "slapped his pilot on the shoulder," I'd be drunk as a senator by the time the bombs started falling.

The fictional characters here are, as I said, not particularly engaging. I realized a good part of the way through the book that I wasn't really interested in them as such, but only as pegs on which to hang the story. One I came to think of as "Captain Cecil Backstory," useful mainly for long discussions with Winston Churchill during which the authors could explain Japanese culture and politics. Real-life characters like Churchill and FDR struck me as very imprecise portraits. (I've read a lot by and about Churchill, and I know Gingrich has as well. I was surprised, therefore, by how non-Churchillian the "Churchill" in this book sounded.) The one person in the book I did find interesting, and about whom I'm looking forward to reading more in later books, was Mitsuo Fuchida, the commander of the Japanese air strikes.

Because I'm a student of the Pearl Harbor attack and have read a fair amount about it, both fiction and nonfiction, I approached this book with a certain eagerness. I'm really sorry the characterization left so much to be desired, but the plausible and interesting premise may be enough to justify it and make me want to pick up later titles.
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46 of 55 people found the following review helpful
on May 20, 2007
Format: HardcoverVerified Purchase
... the jacket designer should be shot! Portraying Iowa Class battleships at Pearl Harbor in 1941, when they were not even commissioned until 1943?

But the book is a gem! I liked the efforts of the authors in the Gettysburg series, and this first volume is wonderful! Good alternative history, in my opinion, hinges on a slight change in the actual events to speculate on potential results.

I do not want to be a plot spoiler; other reviewers have given some details. But this is an ideal book for military history fans, as well as for those who enjoy well crafted fiction. I look forward to future volumes!
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27 of 33 people found the following review helpful
on May 15, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Posted for William Greenbaum, New York:

Good historical fiction teaches and entertains. Pearl Harbor, by Newt Gingrich and William Forstchen, does both in abundance.

This new novel approaches the lead-up to the attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, as a conflict between Japan's desperate needs and America's revulsion at Japanese methods.

The portrayal of the attack itself is searing and fascinating. The book ends setting the scene for following volumes with history "tweaked" by a plausible alteration of Japanese leadership. The table is set for an alternative scenario in future books of the series by a more aggressive fleet commander leading imperial forces attacking Hawaii.

Internal conflicts guiding the actions of historical figures are fairly described. Intriguing fictional characters provide thematic insight and transition. Those characters also keep the reader riveted as they get into dangerous situations that highlight actual events. The reader will find particularly memorable the sinking of the U.S.S. Panay and scenes from the Japanese occupation of Nanking.

This is a worthy book. I look forward to succeeding volumes.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on June 12, 2007
Format: Hardcover
We know Newt, of course. We may also know he's a historian as well as a politician. We know Pearl Harbor, or think we do. But this historian-as-novelist-eye's-view of Pearl Harbor which changes ONE fact and creates some good fictional characters to tell the tale is intriguing and fun. The fact? What if Yamamoto--the man who led the plan to destroy the US fleet at Pearl Harbor--had led the raid himself instead of the less-daring Admiral Nogumo who failed to send a third wave back to finish the job? The result is a much more devastating destruction, and the story is well-told with great insight into the character and politics of both Japan and the US in the 1930's, including as it does many glossed-over-in-US-history-101 incidents such as the Panay attack and the Rape of Nanking.

BUT...................wow is this thing sloppily edited. Doesn't Newt have a proofreader/fact-checker? Whole phrases and sentences are repeated a paragraph later for no reason, words and places are misspelled or misidentified (example: Bletchley Park, the British code-breaking facillity, is called "Benchley Park"--maybe they were decoding wry humorist passages?) and there are some basic mistakes here that you'd think a historian, let alone two of them, would have made sure of before putting out a book. IF you can ignore that (and I haven't read Newt's Civil War books so maybe it isn't a new phenomenon--I just don't know if this is a one-time thing or a general pattern) then you'll enjoy this book. If not....stay away. It can be AMAZINGLY irritating and amateurish and it really got in the way of my enjoyment.
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26 of 32 people found the following review helpful
Format: HardcoverVerified Purchase
Gingrich and Fortschen have written another triumph. Pearl Harbor sets out the background of the most infamous sneak attack in history, dramatizing some little known details, while telling fresh the more well known parts. The alt.history comes in when the Japanese launch a third wave that was cancelled in real life. This sets up what will likely be a bloodier Pacific War in subsequent books of the series. I can barely wait.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
Format: Hardcover
I liked the book in general because it gave a good synopsis of the run-up to the war with Japan. However, some of the dialogue was "butchered", and worst of all, there were a number of factual errors that two knowledgable authors (and their editor) let slip by them. Here ae just a few: The Hawaii army commander was given as General Stark. In fact it was General Short (Stark was the CNO on Washington). An army officer has the rank of "Lieutenant Junior Grade"; that's a navy rank. The novel says that the Army-Navy football game was interrupted by the attack (The game was played earlier on a Saturday). In one scene a character suddenly appears in a dialogue when in fact he was thousands of miles away. And there were others. These authors can do much better. Maybe they should get a competent editor and proof-reader.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on June 5, 2007
Format: Hardcover
This was an incredible book to read - very difficult to put down. The kind of book that makes hours pass without you realizing. A number of annoying grammatical errors, as other reviews have pointed out.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
Format: Hardcover
There is historical fiction and then there is alternative history. Ostensibly, this book falls in the latter category. But the bulk of the text is a prelude to events on 7 December 1941, showing broad trends that led to that attack. This account is really historical fiction. Actually, a very thin layer of that on actual historical events. There are minor fictional characters, and historical figures like Churchill, Yamamoto and Halsey. And the dialog is fictional. But the presentation of events and reasons for the various nations acting as they did hews closely, or even exactly, to the real events.

In this sense, the book is good at educating a reader in the origins of the Pacific War, for a reader that does not read history books. The authors have done their research well.

You'll have to wait for the others in this authors' series for alternative history.
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14 of 18 people found the following review helpful
Format: Hardcover
This is one entertaining book and I am surprised that so few people have reviewed this book. If you are concerned that Newt Gingrich is one of the authors do not be afraid to read this book thinking you are going to get an earful of current politcal nonsense. This book is about another time in history, going back to the 1930's and the events which lead up to World War II. Much more complex of a situation one would imagine. I always find the relationships between the French Vichy government and the axis powers interesting ( as a youngster watching the movie Casablanca I did not understand this relationship). The book is very fast moving, the characters exciting and the story line interesting. This book would make for a great miniseries on TV. As the book ends it is really just the beginning of the conflict with another book in the wings. I really can't wait for the next installment. The title December 8th, is really December 7th Pearl Harbor time but it is December 8th in Japan. Other reviewers have give some of the plots away, but you will still enjoy the book even if you are a casual history fan (like me).
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