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Wolf Hunt: The Burning Ages Paperback – July 1, 2011
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-- One of the best this year ... engaged me from the first page to the last. [Sift Book Reviews]
-- Terrific multi-genre fiction! [William P. Grasso, author of East Wind Returns]
-- First rate, action packed techno-thriller and alternate history. [Steven Konkoly, author of The Jakarta Pandemic]
About the Author
Sebastian P. Breit has worked in the financial sector and has studied English and Political Sciences at the University of Trier, Germany. He currently lives in Germany's oldest city, Trier.
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First, the naval combat with its eye on future technology is quite riveting, and interesting enough to merit a book of its own. But these future ships of war are not invulnerable, even when transported back to 1940, and conveying their fight for life, or their failure, is exceedingly well done. Others may have different views about how well Mr. Breit conveys the feel of "modern" ships at sea, but I for one was glued to my Kindle.
The focus then shifts to Berlin, where the future German naval contingent seeks to change the course of history. In these chapters, Mr. Breit absolutely shines! The clarity of his sense of time and place is almost without equal in the genre, and when he describes the various German security services, it rings with careful research. Here, again, the story of the complex events encountered by the time travellers in Berlin would merit its own rendering.
How sad, then, to find the American side of the tale presented with less verve. I say that mindful that it might seem chauvinistic, but I believe Mr. Breit's intent was to weave two parallel stories of roughly equal weight. As it is, the American chapters feel a bit tacked on, and I found myself rushing through them to return to events in Berlin. It may be that the sequel will restore some balance.
To pick at nits, the use of English slang is jarring in the mouths of Germans who are supposed to be speaking German. It is especially odd given the occasional use of German titles and even the use of footnotes to explain certain things that would be unfamiliar to most American readers.
Despite the quibbles over language, I would have rated this five stars had it not been for the letdown of the American chapters. There is a very bright future ahead for this new author!
Most books do not cause me to lose sleep wanting to read it, but this was one of them, it was that good.
The premise is straightforward: a NATO navy taskforce in a ruined future travels back in time to World War Two with the notion of erasing Hitler before he founds the extermination camps. The Americans decided to join the war effort, the Germans to run a mission of their own to assassinate him. Don't be fooled into lumping this book into the crap pile with the large majority (perhaps every) "change the past" book, because the author has actually thought out the consequences of the actions and done his research on a number of area, from modern weapons to historical people and societies.
The bad (or should I say the mediocre, nothing was really bad)-
The writing is hit and miss. In the beginning Breit spends too little time talking about the ruin that is our future, (I for one would have liked to see a few more pages giving a more full treatment of the characters background). He also spends far too much time pouring over new weapons in development early on in the plot. Now maybe because this is my field and vocation so I'm familiar with all of them already, but I didn't think the huge number of future weapon descriptions were needed, since they took away from the flow of the story. Some events also happen too quickly with no clear motivation (the Muslim mechanic sabotaging their helicopter, some of the fight or torture scenes) which is the mark of a newer writer.
The story telling generally improves as the book progresses, which is nice. For example, he adds the shorthand 'downtimer' for people the 1940 natives and 'uptimer' for the time travelers, which quickly allows the reader to absorb who is doing what and not be bogged down in needless details.
I didn't agree with everything that happened in the plot, having the NATO unit just break down into a civil war immediately after traveling back seems stretched, but as a reader you give the author the benefit of the doubt.
The grammar is ever-so-slightly off, like when Flynn is on the Azores he remarks that 'if ever there was a reason to hate fascism it was this' instead of the more elegant '...this was it.' But this is easily excusable which you realize the writer is a German and this is not his native language.
Lastly, the main characters tend to be flat. Flynn the American and Hallweather the German leaders are as far as I can tell the same person, and they felt like generic people with no real personalities. Likeable enough however.
While it is a war book the real story is not the combat, that only serves as a plot element to tell his tale. The societies behind the war and because of the war are really what this book is about; and oh boy, did Breit pull off his commentary brilliantly. I would be tempted to give it 4 stars, but because of the ideas lurking in here I feel compelled to give it a perfect 5, because his ideas paper over every other kind of mistake he makes as an author.
After Germany decided she was done with Lutheranism and her glorious Christian past she fell into a kind of scientific void where Eugenics and "progress" and "socialism" were allowed to move into the forefront of peoples beliefs, and that idea, faithfully followed led to Nazism. But once Nazism was removed what was left? The foreign notion of 'work hard' and 'consumerism' now impressed upon them by Americans? No, what was left he claims was merely a sad kind of 'anti-Nazism'- Germany never recovered a purpose and so withers spiritually and morally to this day. Why are there no babies born in Germany? Because 'be fruitful and multiply' is a religious idea, and having rejected both God, and the idea of having kids for the state, Germany is lethargic. Small wonder Hallweather wants to arrest this, but not being perceptive about this, he only knows *that* things went south at this time, so he has no clear plan to fix it. Too late he realizes that Socialism was a hyrda not a dragon, you can chop off the head but then what? What drove Hitler to power was an idea, you can kill the man, but how do you kill the idea which is in vogue? This is what is so fun about this book, grappling with that concept alongside the author. It's the first book in what might be a series, so this is going to be the crux of what happens in the future books to make the plot either rise or fall.
And that dovetails with the next strength of this book: the older characters who are modeled from real people are outstanding. His own inventions are weak and flat, (minus the caricature characters like the German XO, those are done well) but his historical sketches are vibrant, beautiful, alive. They feel like real people - all of them, and best yet, they act like real people. J. Edgar Hoover acts like a really intelligent protective America loving patriot, which compels him to do distasteful and sometimes awful things. He learns about the society of the future, and decides that they can keep it. Its not American to have women give up training the future generation to go fight in war. That society he concludes is a sick society, and so he attempts to arrest the sexual "revolution" while appropriating their scientific knowledge. The tension this creates is outstanding, since you dislike Hoover for his treachery, and yet you long to see the author paint for you a fantasy where he succeeds.
Lastly, I very much enjoyed how Hallweather starts to become an evil villain before arresting himself and coming back to a kind of hero status. It could have been clearer why he pulled out of it, and no doubt the author didn't intend for him to appear headed for evil in the first place so much as "just making the tough necessary choices", but I have not enjoyed seeing this kind of tension and character degradation since "Once Life One Kopek."
I'm looking forward to seeing what happens in the next books. Socialism proved itself a bankrupt idea when the USSR collapsed, so I'm eager to see how the new future develops, what kind of society Hallweather would want further in this series.
All that to say I highly recommended Wolf Hunt. Do yourself a favor and go get it.