2 of 8 people found the following review helpful
This book has cracking great battle scenes but is a weak alternate history from it's research flaws
, December 20, 2012
THIS REVIEW INCLUDES SIGNIFICANT SPOILERS FOR THE BOOK -- YOU DON'T WANT TO KNOW, DON'T READ FURTHER.
"Opening Moves" is the first book of author Colin Gee's "World War III starting in August 1945" alternate history series pitting a Soviet/Japanese Coalition against a _very surprised_ Western Alliance, including a rapidly rearmed Germany featuring an SS Armored Corps inside the French Foreign Legion!
The crux point between this alternate history and our own happens in June 1945 when Stalin decides to strike west while The American Army in Europe is disintegrating from the combined effects of withdrawal to fight Japan and the "85 point" partial demobilization for long service US draftee soldiers.
The strong points of the novel as an alternate military history are
1) Great and numerous maps,
2) A good understanding of European ground force logistics,
3) Some really cracking good ground battle scenes showing strong wargaming influence and
4) The spreading those really good battle scenes across the various Western Allied Army units facing the Red Army sledge hammer.
Detail weak points, as other reviewers have noticed for Europe, include a very poor understanding of Western Strategic Air Power, how badly the Western Armies were affected by partial demobilization (The UK had a 4 year, three month demobilization to match the US Army "85 point" system) and the missing 5th column role of Western Communists.
If strong battle scenes are what you are looking for in a military alternate history, this is a five star book. Unfortunately, that is not enough for this reviewer.
What destroys my ability to suspend disbelief is Mr. Gee's lack of research on the late Pacific War as it relates to his crux point. Specifically that American and British Ultra (military) and Magic (diplomatic) code breaking of Japanese government communications would have tipped off the Western Allies that the Soviet attack was coming.
As any reader of Edward Drea's MacArthur's Ultra: Codebreaking and the War Against Japan, 1942-1945 (Modern War Studies)
would know, the Anglo-American code breakers had not only the Japanese diplomatic and naval codes broken, they also had broken the Japanese Army Transport codes which were using to steer Allied subs and planes to sink Japanese Army convoys. MacArthur's Central Bureau had Japanese Army code books captured in New Guinea and they had an early 1945 Japanese navy code book captured in Manila. Adm Nimitz's code breakers received the latest (March 1945) Japanese army code book captured on Okinawa.
While the rearming of the Japanese Army in Manchuria by the Red Army with captured German equipment could have been hidden _if_ the Russians had both known about Magic/Ultra and tipped off the Japanese to change their diplomatic and naval codes. Their movement to South China needed Japanese army ships whose course and cargo would be known to the Anglo-American code breakers.
In addition to that major Crux point problem, there are a number of other detail quibbles that come from owning a collection of books including John Winton's The Forgotten Fleet: The British Navy in the Pacific, 1944-1945
, Richard A. Russell's Project Hula: Secret Soviet-American Cooperation in the War Against Japan
, JOHN COSTER-MULLEN's Atom Bombs: The Top Secret Inside Story of Little Boy and Fat Man
and Ed Simmonds and Norm Smith Echoes over the Pacific: An overview of allied air warning radar in the Pacific, from Pearl Harbor to the Philippines campaign
. These additional detail weak points include;
1) A complete lack of understanding of how important RADAR was and what its relative lack meant for Soviet Air Power operational losses in fighting the Western Allies,
2) Not realizing that the US still had one enriched uranium A-bomb even if the Plutonium bomb program was sabotaged,
3) The secret US Navy lend-lease program to transfer landing ships, mine sweepers & frigates to the Soviet Navy to invade northen Japan & Korea,
4) A horrid understanding of Chinese ground logistics that had Japanese manned German Tiger and Panther tanks in Southern China past the American air, submarine and sea mine blockade of the China Sea and the 14th Air Force, B-25 laid, minefields in the Yellow, Yangtze, and Xi Rivers,
5) Capitol Units of the British Royal Navy and US fleet located in Pacific and Indian Oceans in August 1945 being sunk near Britain at the August 1945 opening of the book.
At $4.99, this book and others in the series are a great entertainment value for many wargamer, techno-thriller readers and many alternate history audiences with limited knowledge of the Pacific War. That said, this reviewer rates it at a three stars for that code breaking crux point and and numerous detail weaknesses.