In Bombs Away, Book 1 of Harry Turtledove's The Hot War series, gives the Korean War a tragic twist with the introduction of nuclear weapons. The Cold War turned quickly hot, as the Communists and the U.S start bombing the heck out of each other. The mutual bombing continues in Fallout: The Hot War.
Just as he did in Bombs Away, Turtledove gives readers of Fallout a wide scope, focusing on common people and on leaders of both sides. The attacks continue, the ground war in Europe continues, people's lives continue as they live and love and try to figure out how to move on. Turtledove's realism and detail in the character's lives is impressive and convincing.
One thing about Fallout that I didn't like as well as Bombs Away was that the more time passed, the further the timeline diverged from reality, the less interested I became. Bombs Away really worked because it took a point of divergence from actual history. Fallout continues the story along that new timeline, with many of the same characters. Their stories are interesting, to a point, but the overall narrative was lacking.
These books together show the futility of nuclear war, and anticipate even worse conflicts. As President Truman contemplates retaliation after the Russians nuke several U.S. cities, Turtledove writes, "Where did it end? Did it, could it, end anywhere except with both sides too battered and devastated to throw any more haymakers, as if two weary pugs in the ring knocked each other over at the same time?"
The stories in Fallout offer some home, as the characters rebuild their lives after nuclear attacks. But the hope is dimmed by the superpowers insistence on answering blow for blow. Fallout ends as Bombs Away did, with an open-ended anticipation of what might happen next. If Turtledove continues The Hot War series, each volume is bound to be even more bleak than this one. Thank God it's only fiction--for now.
Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for the complimentary electronic review copy!