Monday, 9 July 2007

The Foresight War has been out for a few years now and has accumulated several reviews (summarised on my website). Today I found another one, thanks to Google Alerts - although it is a year and a half old! The full review can be found here - http://community.livejournal.com/topfive_reviews/335655.html - but the conclusion is:

"In total, a rather realistic, aside from the obvious, "what if" scenario of WWII, that clearly shows the author's bias towards the technical and politcal aspects of his story, as opposed to character. Probably an interesting read for the initiated but will definitely be a snore for the average history layman. Which equates to most of the population of the world. 7/10."

I don't have any argument with the comments in this review; the story will certainly be most appreciated by people with a reasonable knowledge of the Second World War, and especially by those who are intrigued by the "what ifs" of the conflict.

The particular characteristics of the novel are a result of its rather unusual genesis. My interest in military history had caused me to spend a lot of time over the years, rather idly ruminating over the many mistakes made by all sides in that war, and contemplating what might have happened if the worst ones had been avoided. Eventually I decided that I'd never get these thoughts out of my head unless I wrote them down. For some time I puzzled over how best to do this. I was used to writing non-fiction and did not initially think of fiction (despite being a long-time SFF reader), until the idea of a novel based on time-travelling historians occurred to me one night. A novel needs characters as well as ideas, so a suitable squad was duly recruited for the task (although they didn't always follow orders...), but their task was clearly to carry the plot, which dominates the story.

As an exercise in exorcism, writing the book certainly worked as I have hardly thought about the subject since, except to respond to comments about the story! It has also stimulated much debate among readers, and even a spin-off story about an American 'throwback' (see my website) plus an Italian work-in-progress on the same theme. So I am happy with the outcome. Despite this, it is unlikely that I will be writing any similar story in the foreseeable future. I thought I was familiar with World War 2, but when it came to writing about specific places, people and events I found that I needed to do a huge amount of research to get the historical bits accurate, and the fictional parts realistic. I think I'll bury my WW2 reference library somewhere in deep storage to make sure that I don't get tempted again...

1 comment:

Bill said...

Ok, I just finished your book and really enjoyed it. So now I read this review, and I must disagree. The reviewer had three complaints, two of them very minor. Let's take those first. He found the tank names confusing, because these fictional tanks weren't quite the same as the historical tanks of the same name. That seemed realistic to me. And I wasn't confused because I'm no expert on WWII equipment. And second, the reviewer was disappointed that the Holocaust was virtually ignored (by both time travelers). I'd agree with that complaint.

But his biggest complaint was about characterization, as you note. I disagree strongly with that. This is plot-driven, not character-driven SF, so the characterization is rather sparse. But what characterization there is in the book is spot on.

I've read other plot-driven alternate history, such as "1901" by Robert Conroy or "A Damned Fine War" by Bill Yenne, in which the characterization is so poor that it detracts from the story. That's not the case here. The characterization is excellent, it's just not the main focus of the book. In general, my preference is for character-driven SF (although I have a fascination for this kind of alternate history). But I'd much rather read excellent plot-driven SF - like this - than poor character-driven fiction. And as I say, the characterization in this book was very well done, just not emphasized.

As you can probably tell, I was very impressed. Good job, Tony!