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The Iron Dream Paperback – January 1, 2000
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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. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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But I give the Kindle Edition one star because it is absolutely RIDDLED with errors. I can live with a few mistakes, but this goes just too far. There is a character named "Waffing." Literally half the time he is called "Waning." "Feric," the book's protagonist, is often "Peric." Exclamation points are replaced with the number one. It's clear that no care, attention to detail, or effort was put forth in preparing the electronic version. If they were charging a buck for it, fine. But this is $8.00, a real book price. For that I expect a real book.
This edition is just disgraceful. It shows no respect for the book, the author, or the readers.
This book purports to be classic science fiction novel written by Adolph Hitler in a world where Hitler immigrated to the United States and became embedded in the science fiction world of the early 20th century. Nursing his dreams, Hitler eventually produced a science fiction masterpiece called "The Lord of the Swastika." The Iron Dream is itself divided into three parts. In the first, we are treated to a biographical sketch of Hitler’s life, including his stint as an editor of a fanzine before writing his masterpiece. The third is an extended scholarly treatment of Hitler’s epic which considers the meaning of the book and Hitler’s psychology in writing The Iron Dream.
The greater part of the book is Hitler’s masterpiece. It involves Feric Jagger, a man who marches out of a wilderness genetically blighted by a nuclear war to the pure human state of Heldon. In Heldon he finds both corruption and inimical and secret power of the Doms – a mutant race with the ability to power to subvert human into “patterns of dominance.” Jagger leads a rebellion, discovers that he is the heir to the power of the Great Truncheon of Held and leads a true Human campaign to cleanse the world of racial mongrels and subhuman mutants.
In other words, it is a thinly veiled roman a clef of Hitler’s actual life.
The book is the Mary Sue book that Hitler would have written if he had been a frustrated fanzine editor in Milwaukee. The writing is good, but the storyline is ponderous and obvious. There are no subtleties in the story and absolutely no nuance or subtext. The story is as wooden and dense and obvious as many other science fiction book written during the Golden Age of Pulp. The best part of the book for a history buff is mapping the story onto actual history and figuring out who in the book represents what in history.
It is hard to recommend this book. It is certainly a classic in its way, but the point of the joke is not to be an entertaining read, but, rather, a long, drawn out joke. That said, however, I thought it was eerie how much sense the Hitlerian world view made in the context of a science fiction novel. There have been numerous stories about pure humans striving to maintain humanity in the face of mutations, where the mutants are the bad guys whose eventual extinction is kind of a good thing. I found myself a little chagrined at thinking how I had rooted for “our side” in those stories when that storyline was grafted on to the Holocaust.
So, this might be a worthy read simply for the sake of saying you’ve read it. This book was never going to win any awards and it will never be on anyone’s list of the 50 best books of anything.
“The Iron Dream”, while no less brutally realistic concerning the ideology of Adolf Hitler, is a parody of the father of the Holocaust. Like “The Man in the High Castle”, “The Iron Dream” is a novel within a novel. It contains “Lord of the Swastika”, a 1954 Hugo winning novel by American immigrant and prolific pulp SF master Adolf Hitler. Set one thousand years after The Great Fire, a global nuclear event, it utilizes Hitler’s genocidal thoughts to parody Nazism, the Sword and Sorcery subgenre of fantasy, the quasi-relationship of SF through editor Joseph Campbell with Scientology, and the politically focused SF of writers like Robert Heinlein. In fact, the novel foreshadows the movie adaptation of Heinlein’s “Starship Troopers” and is a possible influence on the film’s parodic view of militant Libertarian authoritarianism. Like Pierce’s book, Spinrad seduces the reader into following the “hero’s” struggle for victory and the achievement of their political and socially reorganizing goals, and it reverberates on the underlining racism of writers as diverse as Joseph Conrad and H. P. Lovecraft.
Norman Spinrad is best known as a master of the short story format, however, “The Iron Dream” while flawed as a crafted novel still remains his most important contribution to science fiction if not literature. In this time of pastiche fascism as personified by the political career of Donald Trump, it is a work extremely relevant to our times. In the words of Ursula LeGuin:
“And distancing, the pulling back from "reality" in order to see it better, is perhaps the essential gesture of SF. It is by distancing that SF achieves aesthetic joy, tragic tension, and moral cogency. It is the latter that Spinrad aims for, and achieves. We are forced, in so far as we can continue to read the book seriously, to think, not about Adolf Hitler and his historic crimes--Hitler is simply the distancing medium--but to think about ourselves: our moral assumptions, our ideas of heroism, our desires to, lead or to be led, our righteous wars. What Spinrad is trying to tell us is that it is happening here.”
So take the time to find and read this now obscure work of 70s science fiction and parody. You won’t regret it although you might feel a bit uneasy….a critical component of contemporary art.