Saturday, June 2, 2018

Book Reviews: Rising Sun

Rising Sun
by Robert Conroy
I hadn't read any books by this late writer of alternate history for a long time. I decided to cross Rising Sun off the list of books I hadn't read yet. The prose is very short, punchy, and for lack of a better descriptor, male. This is something Mickey Spillane would have felt at ease reading and possibly even writing. There are no flowery long examinations of how someone felt or what did someone really mean when they said so-and-so. Conroy doesn't provide a lot of examination or deconstruction of character motivations. Character doesn't drive this book. Plot does.

Although the US victory at 1942 Battle of Midway was in hindsight a foregone conclusion given that the US had cracked the Japanese naval communications code and had a pretty good idea of where and when the Japanese hammer would fall, allowing the Americans to prepare countermeasures and ambushes, in real life the Americans also benefited from luck. The Japanese commanders, unaware of the true American strength and torn between searching for more American ships and launching attacks on American ground bases, were atypically indecisive. Repeated contradictory orders about whether to load aircraft with bombs (ground attack) or torpedoes (ship attack) left the Japanese carrier task force with carrier decks crowded with armed and fueled planes, while the small number of fighter planes were chasing off American torpedo bombers at sea level. 

The Japanese fleet was therefore a sitting duck for bombing attacks launched from American carriers the Japanese hadn't even known were in the area. Four Japanese carriers were sunk. Over 3000 Japanese sailors or soldiers were killed. The Japanese lost the strategic offensive against the Americans. 


One reason that the Japanese had such poor intelligence about the American position and strength was that their picket line of submarines was late getting into position and completely missed a major section of the American task force. Rising Sun imagines that those submarines were on time and ready. Midway, instead of being a turning point in the Pacific War, becomes yet another ignominious American defeat. 

The Japanese are realistically considering invading Alaska and Australia, threatening to starve out Hawaii, and possibly even bombarding and invading the US mainland. There's only one US carrier in the Pacific left. The Japanese are frantically searching for it. Three American nurses in Hawaii don't want to wait around for the nonexistent mercies of Japanese invaders. They want to sail back to the US, no matter what they have to endure. A US Naval officer who survived Midway, and has a thang for one of the aforementioned nurses, may have a key piece to the puzzle of how to beat the Japanese. A rough and ready Alaskan outdoorswoman and her friend ready resistance for the coming invasion. German spies get orders to commit more sabotage in the US in order to help Japan. Mexico and Spain rethink their position.  A Japanese fighter pilot worries that the war will be over before he gets to make his mark.

This was a quick read. I finished it in less than 3 days. Even though Conroy got some technical details wrong the battles felt real enough. That was obviously where most of his interest lay. Conroy didn't do a lot of table setting for the world of the 1940s. Those Americans were in many ways very different from modern Americans. With the exception of a few hand waves to racist feelings against the Japanese I didn't think Conroy got that difference across. Decent read if you enjoy the genre.
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