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1942: A Novel Paperback – February 24, 2009
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From Publishers Weekly
U.S. Army captain and intelligence officer Jake Novacek leads the charge against Japanese forces in the latest historical thriller from Conroy (1945), a speculative narrative in which the Imperial Army attacks and occupies the Hawaiian Islands. Soon after the invasion, Jake is secretly sent to the Big Island to ensure the safety of Comdr. Joe Rochefort, a code breaker who is instrumental in U.S. efforts to take back Hawaii. Jake leaves behind a budding friendship with Alexa Sanderson, a Pearl Harbor widow and pacifist, who, during the occupation, is chosen to be the mistress of Col. Shigenori Omori, leader of the Japanese secret police. As the U.S. Navy plans a counterattack led by physically compromised President Roosevelt, Jake and Alexa struggle to stay alive. Multiple passages devoted to military strategy distract from the far more effective action sequences, especially Jake's guerrilla actions in occupied Hawaii. The book ends up an engaging alternative history lesson, but its many harrowing scenes of torture and brutality border on the distasteful; fans of Tom Clancy and Agent Jack Bauer should find a lot to like here.
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A significant writer of alternate history turns here to the popular topic of Pearl Harbor, producing what is arguably his best book. The story begins with the crippling of Pearl Harbor as a fleet base and focuses on an army intelligence officer turned guerrilla and a navy widow surviving Japanese occupation. The cast also includes an American traitor, loyal Japanese-Americans, and exceedingly well-drawn historical figures, from FDR on down to J. Lawton Collins, chief of staff of the army’s Hawaiian Department. There are lots of vivid action scenes from start to finish, although the climactic American victory involves stretching credibility to a degree that may raise eyebrows among serious students of military history—though even they are more likely than not to enjoy this rousing historical action tale. --Roland Green
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Top Customer Reviews
In this novel Conroy postulates that Japan's Pearl Harbor strike, which in our history consisted of two attack waves, is followed by a third wave that takes out the fuel storage and docking facilities at Pearl Harbor. The Pacific Fleet's basing in Hawaii becomes untenable and America abandons Hawaii to a hasty Japanese invasion. Roosevelt nonetheless pursues his "Germany First" policy, which limits America's ability to respond to the Japanese invasion of sovereign American territory.
Personally I do not believe that Roosevelt could or would have followed a "Germany First" policy had Japan invaded Hawaii. The public and Congress would never have stood for it. In fact, in our history the "Germany First" strategy was given more lip service than reality. But that is just my opinion.
This novel features pretty good character development, a linear plot, and a resounding conclusion that I found thoroughly satisfying. I liked this novel a lot and it is a pretty good example of the alternate history genre. Recommended. RJB.
One of the other reviews (Clueless "what-if") does a fine job exposing issues in logic, character development, and plot so I will not repeat or pile on. However, I will say it starts well with a fairly fresh premise regarding Pearl Harbor and the strategies of Japan and the U.S. It quickly gets extremely clumsy overall and insultingly one-dimensional in its characterization of the Japanese. Conroy attempts to balance this bias with the inclusion of an American traitor but fails. This is my first Conroy and I plan to give him another try with his '1945' which appears to have more favorable consumer reviews.
Without giving away too much of the plot, the book opens just before the attack. Conroy goes to great lengths to show how the lack of cooperation between Army and Navy set up Pearl Harbor for the attack. This is all well documented history.
He diverges after the attack. Rather than withdraw, allowing the US to enter the war in the Pacific, the Japanese return, taking out the fuel storage effectively cutting off any chance for the US to bring more ships in as there would be no way to refuel.
What I found particularly interesting in this account was the sheer brutality of the Japanese warriers of that time. The laws of Bushido, of the Samurai, allowed for no remorse. Kill or be killed was the mantra. This caused the Japanese to look down upon others as inferior and lesser in their abilities. Although they saw the vast numbers of Americans who could certainly overwhelm the much smaller forces of the Japanese, they refused to believe they could be defeated in battle.
Since so many of the inhabitants of Hawaii were either Japanese or were descended from Japanese, or were asian (the Hawaiians), they could be see the potential that these people would no longer consider themselves part of the Japanese society or culture. This miscalculation in great part along with their arrogance led to their ultimate defeat.
I was very impressed with Mr. Conroy's writing style and knowledge of the subject. In fact, I've already started and almost finished another book in his series, 1945.
My only suggestion for the author is this. While I am certainly not a prude by any standards, there are several scenes where main characters engage in sexual activity that seems out of place in the book. I'm not sure if these were included to interest some of his readers, or to lean to the whim of his publishers, or if he chose to do so on his own. Sex is fine in books when it makes sense. But, I saw little reason for some of these parts of the book other than for the sake of bringing sex into the book.
All in all, I loved the book and will continue to enjoy more of Mr Conroy's works in coming months.