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The Iron Dream Paperback – June 17, 2013
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About the Author
Norman Spinrad is the author of over twenty novels, including the acclaimed BUG JACK BARRON. He is a multiple nominee for both the Hugo and Nebula Awards for science fiction achievement, an American Book Award Nominee writer, and winner of the Prix Apollo. He has written scripts for Star Trek and produced two feature films. He has also published over 60 short stories collected in half a dozen volumes, and his novels and stories have been published in over a dozen languages. He has been President of Science Fiction Writers of America, Inc. (SFWA) three times. He is a tireless campaigner for authors' rights and is the creator of the "model contract" now in use by several writers' organizations. He's been a literary agent, President of World SF, briefly a radio phone show host, has appeared as a vocal artist on three albums, and occasionally performs live. He is a long time literary critic, sometime film critic, perpetual political analyst, and sometime songwriter. He grew up in New York, has lived in Los Angeles, San Francisco, London, and Paris, and travelled widely in Europe and rather less so in Latin America, Asia, and Oceania.
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I trust it is abundantly clear the above paragraph is what an outraged reviewer might have written in the alternative world author Norman Spinrad created in his 1972 novel within a novel. And what a novel! The Iron Dream was banned in Germany for eight years, from 1982 to 1990, prompting Spinrad to report how both the political left and right railed against his book – the left claiming it promotes fascism and the right asserting the novel was denigrating to a great man (Adolf Hitler). Now there’s an author who can’t win!
Turning to Spinrad's The Iron Dream itself, on the surface we are given a kitschy bit of pulp, post-apocalypse melodrama entitled Lord of the Swastika written as alternative history by one Adolf Hitler, an illustrator and hack science fiction writer who emigrated from Germany to the United States after World War 1.
Lord of the Swastika opens more than a thousand years following global nuclear war, a cataclysm which brought about the end of civilization as we know it. The gene pool of nearly all forms of human life are corrupted by radioactive fallout - humans possessing complete physical and mental health are rare; most of humanity have blue skin, lizard scales or parrot beaks, or, even more insidious, are wizened half-breed mutants or subhuman "Dominators" desiring to hold sway over the earth by their powerful mind-controlling psychic powers.
What this sorry world needs is a charismatic leader who will ruthlessly eliminate all those malignant subhumans and rid the planet forever of their odious, subversive stench. Enter Ferric Jagger. The tall, blonde, robust Jaggar takes on the role of Führer and Heldon, the land of genetically pure humans, begins to bear a striking resemblance to Nazi Germany.
Why write such a novel? Norman Spinrad tells us he wanted to demonstrate the close connection ideology of the fascist Nazi variety has with archetypal hero myths and much science fiction and fantasy - created worlds where good guys courageously combat evildoing bad guys, where the shining light of truth and justice eventually overcomes all the loathsome forces of darkness no matter where they are found - Middle Earth, Mars, or the middle of one's very own country.
And to make absolutely, positively sure even the least sophisticated, unlettered clod of a reader understood his intent, Norman informs us: “I appended a phony critical analysis of Lord of the Swastika, in which the psychopathology of Hitler's saga was spelled out by a tendentious pedant in words of one syllable.” Unfortunately, even with this laborious literary effort to reach the lowest possible readerly denominator, a number of those muddleheaded clods didn’t get it – one reviewer even took the book as an exciting action story and complained how Spinrad spoiled all the fun by adding a whole bunch of crap about Adolf Hitler.
Alas, this has always been the risk for an author of satire - even a number of jaws dropped in stunned disbelief back in the 1700s after reading Jonathan Swift’s A Modest Proposal. Sad fact: masterfully constructed satire requires a degree of subtle understanding beyond the capacity of many readers. And I can assure you The Iron Dream is one such satire masterfully constructed. And much of the pleasure in reading Spinrad’s novel is to suspend critical judgement and wholeheartedly support Ferric Jagger in his quest to conquer the world.
The Iron Dream is an intensely aesthetic dream, where every pore of Helder purebred skin tingles with excitement beholding the immense power, speed, dash and style of their new society, a land where every true human vows fanatical allegiance to Ferric Jagger. Here’s an example of the glowing rhetoric enlivening nearly every page: “Behind this elite guard were first the ranks of Knight motocyclists, and then the massed might of thousands of Knights of the Swastika, all heroic figures swaggering grandly in their uniforms of brown leather, most of which were liberally spattered with the blood of the enemy.”
But, but, but . . . similar to other more famous tales of adventure and conquest from Iliad and Odyssey to Lord of the Rings and Star Wars, at some point we are obliged to close the book and return to the everyday. How much do we really want our own world to resemble that of a conquering superhero forever in the right, taking aim to blast away the forces of darkness? Is life so simple? In my modest view, The Iron Dream is a key novel for our time. Highly recommended.
This being said, the Kindle version, especially at its current price point, is riddled with blatant errors. I saw a review warning about such things, but since the review in question was two years old, I naively assumed these errors had been rectified. This is not the case. There is at least one typographical error on every page, from a missing space, to a crudely misspelled word, to an embarrassing abundance of misspellings of the name of the MAIN CHARACTER. "Feric" is often incorrectly spelled as "Peric" or "Ferie," almost as if the book had been crudely scanned and slapped into a PDF format. Other characters names are also frequently misspelled. There is also a curious collection of 3 keystrokes which appears an infuriating amount of times in the text:( '" ), usually at a point where there is supposed to be some sort of punctuation mark. This odd collection of characters appears at least 50 times in the text, often mid sentence. This clearly shows that whoever created this Kindle edition either did not care, or did not bother to proofread this at all. If the book were 99 cents, I would really not have paid it much heed, but since it was an eight dollar book, I found this to be a major frustration.
I hope this is not the beginning of a trend of laxity when it comes to proofreading electronic formats of books.
Pay attention to how you feel as you read. You might find it interesting on a personal level as to whether or not the book induces you to sympathize with the main character and his cause. If it does you might end with a better understanding of how people were influenced in real life. Or not.
But in any event it is certainly an entertaining read.
I kid. Genuinely odd book but one worth reading.