Book Review - Days of Infamy by Newt Gingrich and William R. Forstchen
I previously picked up a copy of Pearl Harbor by Newt Gingrich and William R. Forstchen. Much to my surprise, it was far better than I expected, and gave me a greater appreciation of Pearl when we visited Hawaii last year. I was recently contacted by the publicist for an advanced reader copy of their follow-on novel Days of Infamy. Of course, I accepted. :) As with Pearl Harbor, it's a well-written historical novel that looks at how the Japanese/American conflict might have played out if the Japanese had made a few different choices in their strategy.
The novel covers a four day period after the initial two attack waves on Pearl Harbor. In this alternative history, the Japanese lead a third wave over the islands along with a coastal bombardment with two of their battleships. This has everyone thinking that an island invasion might be imminent, when in reality it's a ploy to draw out the carriers that fortunately happened not to be docked in Pearl during the attack. Due to a complete and total destruction of the communication facilities, there is little intel that the US can use to figure out where the Japanese fleet is, how large it is, and what their plans might be. Likewise, the Japanese don't know where or exactly how many carriers the US has available or where they were if not docked at Pearl. It's a chess match between Halsey and Yamamoto that involves millions of tons of naval and aerial equipment, tens of thousands of lives, and quite possibly the fate of the free world. The story also involves James Watson, a cryptographer who lost a hand in an earlier conflict, and is not well-equipped to be part of a battle zone. His wife and mother-in-law are Japanese, and that brings an additional burden to his work. The social backlash against *all* people of Japanese descent in the US is starting to whip up, and he can't guarantee that those he loves will be safe from marauding bands of thugs seeking revenge.
Since the timespan covered in this installment of the story is much smaller, there's not as much character development as there was in the first episode. More of the action is focused on the battle strategy and the actual attacks from both sides. Still, there is plenty of personal material here to keep you interested in the characters. Watching people overcome (or be overwhelmed by) their prejudices is a strong theme covered. I was also struck by how much warfare has changed since then. It was possible back then to be within 100 miles of each other and still not know what was going on. Now with satellite imagery and other technology, war is fought at a completely different level.
If you haven't yet read Pearl Harbor by these two authors, do so before this book comes out. That will lay the groundwork for what continues here. For fans of alternative historical novels, this is a great read.