DAYS OF INFAMY
by Harry Turtledove
Reviewed by Steven H Silver
When Harry Turtledove was working on the World War series, he explained that one of the reasons there were no Japanese viewpoint characters was because he didn't have a feel for them. In the years since, Turtledove has apparently gotten a handle on the Japanese military character of the 1940s, because Japanese characters form the majority of the viewpoint for his latest work of alternate history, Days of Infamy.
The story opens with the decision in Japan to follow up the surprise raid on Pearl Harbor with an invasion of the Hawaiian Islands. Told through multiple viewpoints, Turtledove captures the feel of the 1940s as he shows the Japanese running roughshod over the unprepared Americans. The majority of the work focuses on the civilians and military in Japan dealing with the occupation. Japanese, Japanese-Hawaiians, and Caucasians are all represented as they either try to deal with a new order or put the new order into place.
Although the Japanese characters are courageous, competent and intelligent, their ruthlessness makes them unsympathetic to the American reader, even as Turtledove demonstrates the strangeness of their way of thought and behavior. Even if the reader can't connect entirely with the Japanese characters, Turtledove does show them in a respectful manner.
While characterization of people and Hawaii is really what drive this novel, Turtledove's descriptions of the military tactics and strategies of the Japanese are never far from the foreground and are enough to please the fans of military science fiction. Turtledove uses many military men and planners as his viewpoint characters, and if he is strong in portraying the Japanese here, he includes a few Americans as well, although none are as highly positioned as the Japanese characters.
Days of Infamy is only the first book of a two book series, a fact which becomes very evident and the novel progresses and the reader realizes that there is no way to tie up all the plotlines before the end of the book. Some of the characters, for instance Jane Armitage, add much to the flavor of the novel, but don't advance the plot in any way. Nevertheless, when the book ends, the reader is interested in the future of the characters, both the ones who drive the plot and the ones who simply provide color, and the possibility that they will become more integral to the second novel.
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