There are so many things to love about this. Firstly John Birmingham returns to his Axis of Time series which if you haven’t read you must. Briefly a military experiment in 2021 goes horribly wrong and sends a naval armada back in time to 1942 right in the middle of the Battle of Midway. History of course is drastically altered and all out mayhem ensues. The new technology and information brought from the future changes the political and social landscape. The series was originally a trilogy but now Birmingham expands this alternate universe.
Secondly Birmingham is returning to the Axis of Time series in a different way. Stalin’s Hammer: Rome is Digital only which means it is being published as an eBook (it is also Print On Demand and I’m trying to get some print copies for the bookshop). It is also being published as a serial novel hence the double title (Stalin’s Hammer: Cairo is next). Thanks to eBooks and digital publishing the serial novel is making a resurgence and I think John Birmingham’s stories and style are perfectly suited to the form.
Both Birmingham’s previous trilogies have had expansive storylines with multiple character POVs and have been set in multiple and far-ranging locations. For this series he gets nice and tightly focused. Firstly as the subtitle suggest this opening story sticks to Rome. The story also focuses on just two character points of view. We’re also ten years on the last Axis of Time book in 1955. In this alternate universe the Cold War got started much earlier and thanks to the future technology and knowledge of what history had in store for the Soviet Union, Stalin has mad sure Soviet dominance is more assured.
Rome in this 1955 is now a city divided, much like Berlin in our 1961. A big trade summit is about to begin in the free, southern, part of the city and both the Allies and Soviets are on edge. But what is happening on the surface belies what is going on below, literally in this case. Pavel Ivanov is on a covert mission below Soviet occupied Rome to rendezvous with a Russian businessman who has urgent information to pass on to the Allies but it may already be too late. As the streets of Rome erupt in violence Prince Harry, in Rome on a purely diplomatic mission, is needed to help stop the chaos from spreading into the free zone.
This was a perfect read. You could easily digest it in one sitting but also worked perfectly nibbling bits off here and there when you had free reading time. I loved trying to get my head around post-WW2/Emergence/Transition Rome especially all the politics & the adapted technology. I can’t wait for the next installment.
Classification: Science fiction , Modern & contemporary fiction (post c 1945) , Adventure
Format: Paperback (203mm x 127mm x 10mm)
Imprint: Pan Australia
Publisher: Pan Macmillan Australia
Publish Date: 1-Nov-2012
Country of Publication: Australia