Interesting premise, failed execution

Designated Targets - John   Birmingham

I had read the first book in this trilogy and thought it was okay so when I discovered that the second book had been released I decided that I would snap it up as well. Mind you, that was in the days when I seemed to be buying more books than I was reading (and in a way I am still essentially doing that, though I have managed to resist buying too many books of late. However, that doesn't seem to stop me from adding more and more books to my 'to-read' list on Goodreads).

This book continues from where the first book left off: a group of 21st century soldiers are sent back in time to World War II and inevitably disrupt the time continuum and thus send the 20th Century off in a new direction. Initially the concept seemed to be interesting, and the plot was enjoyable, but there was one really big problem: the allies simply seemed to still be on the winning side. Okay, granted, we probably would not like to be living in a world that had been overrun by the facist dictatorships of the 1940s, but that is beside the point. Despite the fact that Hitler had discovered his mistakes, still did not mean that he was able to capitalise on that knowledge.

The final part of the book has him throw his entire army at the English Channel without any noticeable success, and even the attempted assassination of Churchill ends miserably.

(show spoiler)

In some ways I have liked some of the speculative fiction that comes out of the what would have happened if the fascists won World War II, but in the end the truth is that it would not have been pretty. I suspect what would have happened is that once again the world would have settled into a spot where at the centre of civilisation you would have peace and on the fringes you would have perpetual war. I suspect that the United States may have survived, protected by its moat, though it could have lost Hawaii, and Europe would have been overrun by the Nazi's. Russia would still be under the grip of the Communists, and Asia would be a Japanese empire.

However, the only way Hitler could have won was if he had focused his attacks on the Middle East by striking through Turkey, and then pushing up through the Caucasus. That way he would have had control of major oil regions. I doubt Japan could have managed to conquer China, and even then it would have been a Phyrric victory as it would have been likely that they would be forever putting down resistance (China is just too massive a territory to be able to be controlled by an outside force). I suspect Hitler would have had that problem as well.

Another thing that I did not like about this book was the apparent right wing undertones. I found that his rather brutal descriptions of the behaviour of the extremists was a little off putting, because simply put, not all Muslims behave in that way. We love pointing at the Muslims and labelling all of them as extremists, but Christians also have to put up with that as well. It is true that the extremists seem to rise to the top, and it is their attitudes and actions that people most remember. In reality, the extremists tend to only be a minority, albeit a rather loud minority, and a majority simply want to be left alone and to live their life peacefully.

It is different in places like Palestine and Lebanon where many of them live in abject poverty, and blame the Israelis and the Americans for their situations. The idea of the suicide bomber here is not so much a religious thing (despite it being clothed in religious language) but rather a political issue in regards to human rights and the access to land. It was the same in Iraq. It is true that Al-Queda did attempt to break into Iraq, but the war and the insurgency was more of a nationalist movement than anything else. The Shiites in Southern Iraq had a much stronger following due to the nationalist interests, while the Sunni extremists in central Iraq ended up losing group not because the Americans were winning, but because they simply did not want to give up their freedom to religious extremists.