05 March 2014

Book Review - The Divide

(image from Amazon.com)

William Overgard's The Divide is an alternate history tale involving a world where the Axis Powers won the Second World War. From what I could tell history diverged at a couple points, one being the election of an isolationist President in the United States and the second being a change in Germany's tactics that allowed them a quick victory over Britain.

It is 1976. Two-hundred years since the Declaration of Independence and thirty years since the United States surrendered to the Axis. The elderly Hitler and Tojo plan a historic meeting in the center of America at a place they call the Divide. America has been a peaceful place for a number of years, no real uprisings, citizens being willing slaves to their German and Japanese masters. All that is about to change.

A number of people get involved in setting the stage for a new American Revolution. It starts with the bizarre assassination of a Japanese general on the Fourth of July. The story then jumps between various characters - the trio of freedom fighters and their interactions with other rebel elements, an SS officer tasked with destroying the resistance, and other people whose lives are touched by the ongoing events.

Pieces start to fall in place and all of the threads lead to the meeting of the two rulers at the Divide. There are plenty of set-backs and a few twists and turns along the way.

Overgard's style is interesting. There is a tendency to introduce new information and then spend a few pages telling the back-story of that new information, usually in the form of flashbacks. While this works in most cases, there were a couple of times I wished he would shorten some of the flashbacks and keep going with the events in the 'present'.

The Old Man (Wayne Stubbs) is the main character of the story. He has a checkered past involving accidentally injuring a prostitute, indirectly causing his wife to commit suicide, and then wounding another prostitute in an attempt to kill her while suffering the rage and despair following his wife's death. He then fled to Canada and eventually made his way back after America fell to the Axis. Not the most heroic of backgrounds but he now feels he has to make up for the past by saving the country's future.

The Cowboy (Cooper): This young man was raised by The Old Man. He was raised to be a hero and to be an inspiration for others in the coming revolution. He plays his role well but gets caught up in his first real encounters with women (he and The Old Man lived a very isolated and hobo-like lifestyle).

Claus Dieter is the antagonist from the SS. He is on the trail of the heroes after the July 4th assassination. He is an evil and deceitful man who, while smart, is usually in over his head. He tries to destroy the resistance while keeping his superiors from getting rid of him for any failures.

In addition there are numerous other characters, an Amerind girl, a Jewish woman who is putting the finishing touches on her father's bomb, and many others. Most of the characters are interesting and the liberal use of flashbacks in the novel gives us all the information we need about them.

A great story overall. I have mentioned the sometimes annoying use of flashbacks, but there were only a couple of places that this really bothered me. The ending, while it wrapped up the main story, did not reveal the eventual results of the new Revolution. In fact the last page was about Hitler's daughter being pregnant. I'm not sure if this was to set up a sequel or just to establish that history keeps chugging along, even after some really historic events take place.

As with life, there are not happy endings, just another day and new challenges following the last.

I gave this book 3 out 5 stars when I rated it on Goodreads. It's better than a three but not quite a 4. I was in a phase of not inflating my ratings with too many 4 and 5 stars.

PUBLISHER: Jove Publications, Inc.; copyright 1980 by William Overgard
GENRE: Alternate History
ISBN: 0-515-05492-5

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