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The Whale Has Wings Vol 1 - Rebirth Paperback – March 23, 2013
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2. Warning, this is NOT Harry Turtledove. This is a "Star Fleet Technical Manual." If you want to read about Ma & Pa Kettle caught up in the Czechoslovakian Crisis/War of 1938 or read about the gallant/plucky pilot/submariner/tanker & their travails, DO NOT BUY THIS BOOK. Upon reflection, Turtledove does not write "Alternative History"; he writes fiction set in alternative universes. If you want to read about how the Colleton family deals with emancipation & a Second Civil War or what happens to the rich American tourist caught up in an alternative Second World War, don't buy this series. You WILL be disappointed.
3. This book/series, "The Whale Has Wings" is, in fact, alternative history. Imagine a secondary school-level history text concerning the Second World War. This is just that book.
4. Now, I loved the series. I read Turtledove & I want to know how many tanks in the 1st Panzer Division & their quality; I want to know what their doctrine was in 1938 & I don't get that from Turtledove. So whilst the heroes/heroines are observing the panzers rolling by, I want to know WHY, How MANY & their DESTINATION. This series gives you that, from the perspective of the Royal Navy & the Fleet Air Arm (FAA). If you read this series, you wont learn about plucky heroes/villains...you'll read about production schedules, aircraft, politics & logistics. I & Dr. Sheldon Cooper love this book, for that very reason.
5. It's all very well & good to ask, "What would have happened if: Antietam/Gettysburg/Munich had turned out differently?", to actually know how those things would have turned out differently, ultimately you have to know a bit about production schedules, aircraft, politics & logistics. Rather than telling you about fictional/historical characters set in an alternate universe, Row gives you the logistics of that alternate universe.
6. Lastly, though I love the series; I will say I don't agree with all the conclusions. Yes, I agree with the US Navy side of things. Yes, I agree that a different outcome in the Middle East would have drastically altered both the European & Asian Theatres of War. However, Row, has the RN making pretty much all the right decisions, pre-war. The reality is, it seems to me, is that the RN would NOT have made these decisions, or at least all of them. I rather doubt the British Treasury would have funded them, as Row posits. Lastly, his love of the armoured deck carrier is a bit misplaced or at least over-stated.
Summary: buy this book IF you want to read about aircraft, production schedules, logistics & how the FAA "won the war". If none of that interests you, DON'T BUY THESE BOOKS.
The results don't strain one's credulity. The FAA gets better planes, but they are not wonder weapons. The RN starts building carriers earlier and differently. However, the improved protection from bombs of the carriers is "paid for" with reducing the side armor of the carriers so the displacement balances out. The light carriers proposed have a clear and compelling doctrine that complements their design so all the parts fit together.
The two highlights of this volume are a raid on Wilhelmshaven during the winter of 1939-1940 and the Norway Campaign. The former seems reasonable given the historical plans for a raid on the High Seas Fleet in 1919 had the Great War been extended and the actual performance of the FAA in its 1940 raid on Taranto. The Norway Campaign builds tangible suspense since the Royal Navy clearly has the means to maul the Germans badly during this campaign, but at the same time, we know that the Germans came off fairly well historically, and the German Luftwaffe mauled the Royal Navy in the Mediterranean during 1941.
The style is dry and free of any sustained low-ranking characters meant to elicit an emotional connection, well-drawn or cardboard. There are some annoying editing errors. Read and enjoy.
Here's the problem: most of the issues, suboptimal designs and outright mistakes experienced in real life are avoided. This is really a best case scenario and is not that likely. Along with that, most other nations do pretty much what was done in reality, not learning anything from the experience of the UK. While this is not unheard of (for example, the US really should have expected what could happen at Pearl Harbor based on the experience of Taranto) the fact that historical mistake are made by everyone except the UK start to look more like "let's have the British win even better than they did in real life" than an honest appraisal of what could happen.
That being said, it was still enjoyable and the writing style (minus a few spelling/grammar errors) is quite readable. This isn't a novel, but I would still recommend it. The next volume, however...
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Its a straight forward AU timeline rather than a story, but its very entertaining for all that.Read more