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Pearl Harbor: A Novel of December 8th Hardcover – May 15, 2007

3.9 out of 5 stars 158 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Having completed their Civil War trilogy, ex–House Speaker Gingrich and historian Forstchen return their attention to World War II (they previously collaborated on 1945). The attack on Pearl Harbor occupies the final quarter of the book, and the extensive leadup begins in 1930s Japan and provides readers not well versed in Japanese history a decent thumbnail sketch of Japanese culture and the events that preceded the attack. The authors' research shines in accurate accounts of diplomatic maneuvering as well as the nuts-and-bolts of military action, beginning with the Japanese invasion of China. Fans of the authors will expect their trademark "alternative" ending. In this case, the Japanese attack far more vigorously and devastate a larger chunk of the U.S. Pacific fleet than they actually did. How this affects the war's outcome will be revealed in the sequel. Gingrich and Forstchen, though adept at bigger-picture issues, falter when it comes to establishing and developing characters; FDR, Churchill and Hirohito come across as caricatures who move the plot along by mouthing historically appropriate lines, while the soldier-heroes exist to explain their nation's point-of-view to the reader. The recent success of Letters from Iwo Jima may attract readers who would otherwise shy away from military history fiction. (May)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

Gingrich and Forstchen roll out the first installment in their eagerly anticipated World War II series. As they did in their bestselling Civil War series, they rewrite history, providing alternative scenarios that parallel actual events. Basing this novel on pivotal questions of leadership and military strategy, they play out what would have happened if the decisive and hawkish Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto had led the attack on Pearl Harbor instead of his more cautious subordinate, Admiral Nagumo. According to the authors, Yamamoto would have ordered another series of strikes, strikes that would effectively alter the entire course of the war. Leaving readers hanging on December 8, they provide plenty of fodder for ensuing volumes. Although it is intriguing to have much of the story told from the Japanese point-of-view, the narrative often plods and the dialogue lacks sufficient punch to do justice to the subject matter. Still, it is always fun to re-imagine history, and Gingrich and Forstchen won't disappoint their previously established audience of military fiction enthusiasts. Margaret Flanagan
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Thomas Dunne Books; 1st edition (May 15, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312363508
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312363505
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.2 x 9.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.7 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (158 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #333,760 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and historian William R. Forstchen have combined to write this exciting novel about the coming of war in the Pacific, as well as a chilling description of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. But this time, the Japanese finish the job.

The story is told through the eyes of Commander James Watson, USN and Lieutenant Commander Cecil Stanford, Royal Navy. Both men work in cryptology, and, through the course of the book, travel all over the world. They even end up meeting Commander Mitsuo Fuchida, the Japanese pilot who would eventually lead the attack on Pearl Harbor.

Throughout the course of the book, the reader learns, through Watson's and Stanford's eyes, about such events as the Japanese invasion of China, the rape of Nanking, and the sinking of the American gunboat Panay. All of these events set the Japanese, Americans, and British on a collision course toward war.

The story of the attack on Pearl Harbor only encompasses about a quarter of the book, but the story is amazing, and makes the reader wonder what would have really happened had the Japanese attack materialized in the manner conceived by Gingrich and Forstchen. In this fictionalized version of the attack, the Japanese have removed Admiral Nagumo from command of the Japanese striking force. Admiral Yamamoto himself has sailed forth with the strike force. Perhaps the most glaring narrative of the book is the description of a third attack wave. During the actual Pearl Harbor attack, the Japanese launched only two attacks then turned for home waters, not wanting to risk detection by the Americans.
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Format: Hardcover
In any story about the Pearl Harbor attack, the attack itself is going to be one of the central "characters," and the narrative of the attack is almost inevitably going to be the most dramatic part of the plot. That's just as well in this case, as I found "Pearl Harbor" by Gingrich and Forstchen to be an interesting and mildly thought-provoking novel despite being weighed down by characters to whom the reader develops (or at least this reader developed) very little personal or emotional connection.

This is an "alternative history" novel of sorts, but not the kind that assumes time travel or poses "counterfactuals" like Wendell Willkie winning the election in 1940. In fact, the point at which fiction diverges from fact in "Pearl Harbor" is so subtle that readers unfamiliar with the Pearl Harbor attack run the risk, I imagine, of never noticing where the split happened. The road the authors have taken, though, is a plausible one, and the consequences of that difference flow logically. It's this element I'm looking forward to seeing explored further in later books in the promised series.

What was far less satisfying, however, was the authors' character development and, frankly, their writing. For one thing, this could have used at least one more pass by a good editor to catch spelling errors ("chocks" versus "chokes;" "terra incognito"), anachronisms (would Winston Churchill really have described someone as "outside the loop" [p. 270]?), and repeated descriptions, phrases, or actions -- if I had a drink every time Fuchida "slapped his pilot on the shoulder," I'd be drunk as a senator by the time the bombs started falling.

The fictional characters here are, as I said, not particularly engaging.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
... the jacket designer should be shot! Portraying Iowa Class battleships at Pearl Harbor in 1941, when they were not even commissioned until 1943?

But the book is a gem! I liked the efforts of the authors in the Gettysburg series, and this first volume is wonderful! Good alternative history, in my opinion, hinges on a slight change in the actual events to speculate on potential results.

I do not want to be a plot spoiler; other reviewers have given some details. But this is an ideal book for military history fans, as well as for those who enjoy well crafted fiction. I look forward to future volumes!
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Format: Hardcover
Posted for William Greenbaum, New York:

Good historical fiction teaches and entertains. Pearl Harbor, by Newt Gingrich and William Forstchen, does both in abundance.

This new novel approaches the lead-up to the attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, as a conflict between Japan's desperate needs and America's revulsion at Japanese methods.

The portrayal of the attack itself is searing and fascinating. The book ends setting the scene for following volumes with history "tweaked" by a plausible alteration of Japanese leadership. The table is set for an alternative scenario in future books of the series by a more aggressive fleet commander leading imperial forces attacking Hawaii.

Internal conflicts guiding the actions of historical figures are fairly described. Intriguing fictional characters provide thematic insight and transition. Those characters also keep the reader riveted as they get into dangerous situations that highlight actual events. The reader will find particularly memorable the sinking of the U.S.S. Panay and scenes from the Japanese occupation of Nanking.

This is a worthy book. I look forward to succeeding volumes.
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