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1945: A Novel Paperback – May 29, 2007
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From Publishers Weekly
At the start of Conroy's compelling third alternate history (after 1901 and 1862), military extremists, honor bound by the Japanese code of Bushido, kidnap Emperor Hirohito hours before he's set to announce his country's formal surrender in the aftermath of the atom bomb attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Led by aging samurai and fanatical army general Korechika Anami, the new regime manipulates President Truman into invading the Japanese home islands. The massive offensive (with ground forces led by Gen. Douglas MacArthur) meets stiff resistance, including kamikaze attacks and the use of POWs as human shields. But as the U.S. finds itself slowly sinking into a nightmarish military quagmire, two improbable heroes chart a path to victory. Conroy explores the carnage of war through numerous viewpoints (a naïve American soldier, an escaped POW, a Japanese-American operative, the deposed emperor, etc.) with moving and thought-provoking results. For another take on the same scenario, see Douglas Niles and Michael Dobson's MacArthur's War: A Novel of the Invasion of Japan (Reviews, Mar. 26). (May 29)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Conroy has Japan's surrender after the A-bombs short-circuited by extremists. That leads to a typhoon-battered U.S. invasion that encounters last-ditch Japanese resistance. There are a third of a million American casualties, and two more A-bombs are dropped on Japan. Realistic to the point of gruesomeness, 1945recalls David Westheimer's classic Lighter Than a Feather(1971). Roland Green
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
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In this book Mr. Conroy covers all this very well, but assumes that the coup succeeded.
No other real historical changes were needed to make this story. An excellent way to do an alternative history. And the story he tells is excellent.
Perhaps my favorite part of the book was the introduction where he tells the reader the names of the historical texts that he used to formulate his story. I only had about half of them, so a quick trip had to be made made to Amazon's web site.
If I were to pick one point to complain about, I wish he would have included a map or two of Kyushu, the island where he has the Americans invading. But no problem, I pulled out Frank's Operation DownfallDownfall: The End of the Imperial Japanese Empire which was in the list of historical texts that I already had and there were the maps.
This book, however, is wrong from the introduction. Mr. Conroy appears to have bought the Japanese version of WWII in toto, particularly the end-phase. For him - and for anyone who still believes that Hirohito was a "puppet" of "Japanese militarists" - I suggest you read "Japan's Imperial Conspiracy," by David Bergamini. The book was written from original Japanese source material, and conclusively proves the Emperor was firmly in charge over even the minutest details of Japan's aggression. I was living in Japan when the book was first published, and well remember the furor it aroused: the Japanese government confiscated all copies it could lay its hands on, destroyed them, and declared Mr. Bergamini Persona Non Grata. If you wish to read the "alternative" of WWII in the Pacific, the true story is far better than the politically-correct one in our history books.
As for the proposed invasion of Japan, anyone who has studied the war in the Pacific will not be muchly impressed with "1945."
From my own reading on the subject the author makes the Kamikaze force and the remnants of the Japanese navy more formidable in this story than they would have been in real life. I am also skeptical that the Japanese could have reinforced their land armies in Japan from their Asian forces, given America's naval supremacy. Fortunately we will never know. In any case, the author does a pretty good job of weaving in his fictional protagonists with actual historical figures. MacArthur takes a pranging, as seems to be customary these days and perhaps deservedly.
Overall this is a highly readable novel that I very much enjoyed. Recommended. RJB.
The dialogue is clunky; characters go on near-page-long tangents that don't read at all well, and even when they don't, it's not always believable. The narration is somewhat better, but the book's strength is clearly its overall plot. It may seem weird to talk believability when the plot is an alternate history, but the history doesn't have to be believable - the characters, and how comrades-in-arms or spouses speak with each other, should be. I will say it gets better near the end, but some of the work, even in the battle scenes, is very poorly done.
And Conroy does that plot well - the plot is based enough on the actual background of the way the invasion would have commenced, and enough real-world historical figures enter into its machinations. Yes, sometimes it feels strange to have a certain historical figure in a certain context, or to read about how the whole thing turns out, but that's alternate history.
If you're fascinated by this time period, as I am, it's worth a read. But don't expect spine-tingling dialogue - that, as much as anything else, can take a reader right out of the story. Thankfully, the events can pull you back in to an extent, but this book could have been much better.