by Harry Turtledove
Reviewed by Steven H Silver
Armistice is the third volume of Harry Turtledoveís Hot War trilogy and brings the ill-advised and disastrous war begun in Bombs Away to a conclusion. Armistice presents a world in which myriad people have died and numerous cities have been destroyed by atomic bombs, but the powers that started the war agree to a peace which restores the political situation to the way it was before the war began, although now with the threat of hydrogen bombs.
Turtledoveís novels often deal with the big picture changes, it is easy to lose track of his multiple point of view characters. Armistice overcomes this because the big picture changes have occurred in a way that allows his characters to take center stage. Living and dying still happens, often in unpredictable ways. Characters have little control over their fates, finding them sent to find on distant fronts due to whim and having to figure out how to survive under changed circumstances.
While the war rages in Europe and Asia, Turtledove begins to allow his characters to build potential lives for themselves in a post-war world. In some cases, as with prisoners of war Luisa Hozzel and Trudl Bachman, their lives after the war couldnít be what they expected, either through their own actions or forces beyond their control. Others, like Hungarian soldier Istvan Szolovits, find that their lives are going to take a turn for the better thanks to unexpected patronage.
Because Trumanís peace terms specifically look to restore the status before the war, there is a vague feeling that all the destruction didnít mean anything, and on a macro level that might be the case. However, the world is left with the results of nuclear fallout and Turtledoveís characters are all changes by the results of the war. Marian Staley and Fayvl Tabakman both lost spouses in the war and managed to find each other to start a new life. Bruce McNulty found and lost love during the war. Cade Curtis, who saw the beginning of the war found himself with an adopted Korean son.
One of the areas which Turtledove seems to give short shrift to in the book is the cleanup after the war. With Washington, Moscow, Paris, and other major metropolises destroyed by nuclear attack over the course of the war, as well as cities which have been damaged like Los Angeles, clearly there are long range impacts on civilization. Truman, with the consent of Dwight Eisenhower, does postpone the presidential election in the US to allow for the replacement of a Congress destroyed by the bombing of Washington and the Russians must deal with the loss of Stalin, but little is shown of the aftermath of those bombings and how the various countries will recover the economic, political, and business centers that have been lost.
There is a lot familiar in the Hot War series, but at the same time, Turtledoveís story has a very different feel than many of his previous military alternate histories. This is partly due to the different time period, set in the 1950s rather than during World War II or the Civil War, and partly because of the focus of the novels, both on the personal level and in their take on the big picture.
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