End of the Beginning Mass Market Paperback – Aug 1 2006
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From Publishers Weekly
The human price of war, regardless of nationality, is the relentless focus of this chilling sequel to Turtledove's alternative history Days of Infamy (2004), in which the Japanese conquer Hawaii after the attack on Pearl Harbor. Times are hard for Americans under the occupation. Scarce food and resources result in privation and a thriving black market. Japanese soldiers work POWs to death with heavy labor on insufficient rations. Women are forced into prostitution as comfort women. But the U.S. armed forces have a few tricks up their sleeve, notably a new kind of aircraft that can hold its own against the Zero. Both the Japanese and American militaries scheme, plan and train, while surfer bums, POWs and fishermen just try to get by. A plethora of characters, each with his or her own point of view, provide experiences in miniature that combine to paint a broad canvas of the titanic struggle, if at the cost of a fragmented narrative.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
The Japanese occupation of Hawaii after Pearl Harbor has delayed the U.S. cross-Pacific offensive for two years. But it is coming, with Joe Crossetti as part of the spearhead, piloting a Hellcat off of the new carrier Bunker Hill. Marine Sergeant Leo Dillon and his platoon aren't far behind. Meanwhile, the Japanese in the islands know they are in a logistically impossible situation and outnumbered, to boot. Some, like Minoru Genda and Mitsuo Fughida, do their best to continue the fight. Other Japanese seem to spend most of their time making Americans miserable. Fletcher Armitage is building a tunnel under slave-labor conditions, while his estranged wife, Jane, has been forced into being a comfort girl. Jiro Takahashi is profoundly embarrassing his Americanized and loyal sons by making propaganda broadcasts for the occupation authorities. And Oscar van der Klerk hopes that if he catches enough fish and keeps his head down, both he and Susie Higgins will survive the high-intensity combat that wrecks Honolulu in the second half of the book. An able continuation of the outstanding exploration of the unpleasant WWII alternate scenario that Turtledove launched in Days of Infamy (2004). Roland Green
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
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Top Customer Reviews
Once again, there is no one protagonist or antagonist, but rather dozens of characters to follow. The difference is that the occupation has lasted two years and both Hawaii and its occupants are far different than they were in the start of the first novel. The Japanese-American family has split in the views, with the father clearly on the side of the occupiers, while both his sons are sure to let him know that they are American first and Japanese second. Oscar, the beach bum, has invented a sailboard and uses it to fish everyday, keeping himself from starving, while his on-again, off-again girlfriend Suzy, works PT as a secretary, trying to help feed them. The US POWs grow skinnier and skinnier, while the Japanese soldiers and airmen prepare for the US assault, which is seemingly just around the corner.
By using so many characters, Turtledove creates a rich tapestry of story lines to tell a whopping good story. As an avid reader, this is one I've read half a dozen times in the past years, and every time, it's a joy to see what each of the characters sees and deals with in their own unique way.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Perhaps it is just me, but I am more horrified by violent rape than I am by death. Death can be horrible, but with death, the horror ends. In End of the Beginning, some of the characters that I had learned to identify with and had grown fond of find themselves in increasingly desperate straights. Hawaii's civilians are slowly starving. U.S. prisoners of war are on a program of accelerated slow death. Their hunger is punctuated by random beatings and grueling manual labor.
Fletcher "Fletch" Armitage, a U.S. POW, is a walking skeleton and his wife Jane, who had been in the process of divorcing him when the war began, is forced to work in a Japanese "comfort house" as a sex slave. She is beaten and forced to satisfy numerous Japanese daily. The writer does an excellent job of bringing home the shame and horror of being forced to surrender your body repeatedly to other humans who do not perceive you as human but as an object to be used. This is not a book for children. I felt queasy reading certain passages, and I am perhaps one of the most jaded Americans I know.
Despite or perhaps because of the discomfort I felt as the stories of characters I had come to care about unfolded and took turns for the worse, this book had me hypnotized throughout. It was better than Days of Infamy mostly because I was rooting for America to retake Hawaii the whole time. I had to wait to read End of the Beginning for this to happen.
Although the Japanese are portrayed as brutal (and they were, historically speaking), Turtledove also portrays some of his Japanese characters as likeable men dedicated to their duty. Commander Genda, who is the engineer of the invasion and Admiral Yamamoto's protege, has an affair with the recently crowned Queen of Hawaii but he is a likable, intelligent man who is not brutal by nature and is simply doing his best to serve his nation.
End of the Beginning managed to to suck me through its 440 pages in two days and left me wanting to hear more of the story. My own war here in Iraq seems boring by comparison to the scope and scale of events in World War II, and Turtledove's imagined land invasion of Hawaii is not that far off what might have happened. A highly worthwhile read for history buffs, action fans, romance lovers and adventure aficionados.
He shows the privations endured by civilians and captured American soldiers. The experiences of the latter were far grimmer. Though keep in mind that while specific incidents are fictional, the general experiences are not. He draws upon actual events in our timeline, in places like China, Hong Kong, Philippines and Singapore, that underwent occupation. The bitter passages in the text about the POWs are no exaggeration of what actually transpired at Bataan and Burma.
As you surely know, Turtledove has produced several long series of books. When I started reading this book, I thought it might be at least the second in a trilogy. But after reaching its end, I am not so sure. The last pages could be a very apt ending to this series. I am not going to reveal this. Read the book and see if you agree.
What if there is to be another text? The narrative describes the European theatre as basically unchanged from our timeline. And the US focuses its effort there first. So Germany falls in May 1945. But Japan has essentially bought up to two extra years, in which it shores up its defenses, between the Home Islands and Hawaii. There is repeated reference to this in the text. So both the Japanese and the Americans take far heavier casulties, across the Pacific. Now suppose the Manhattan Project continues on the same schedule as historically. By July 1945, the Americans might not control Tinian or any other island close enough to Japan to launch an atomic attack. If the war goes onto 1947, the US will have lost many more soldiers; and have 8 to 10 atomic bombs. The urge to use these might be irresistable, given that they are at hand, and the high casualties, especially considering the atrocities in Hawaii. In our history, "Remember Pearl Harbour" was a rallying cry. But in the book's timeline, this would have far greater force. Not the least because of what the American civilians in Hawaii experienced. (In our timeline, no significant numbers of American civilians endured occupation anywhere.)
An ironic worse outcome for Japan, due to its initial victory at Hawaii.
Believe it or not, I found End of the Beginning almost riveting, and I was able to overlook the usual Turtledove foibles: the endless repetition of character details, not to mention the repetition of plot points. I was going to scream if I heard one more time how new pilot Joe Crosetti is uncomfortable letting the landing guy on the carrier be in charge of landing his plane, rather than landing himself, for example. These kinds of things are forever in Turtledove's repertoire and will never leave. However, usually these points drag the book to a halt because many of the scenes don't advance the plot much. This time, they do. Not great strides, of course, but it's clear at the end of each scene why Turtledove included them. The events that Turtledove puts his characters through are actually interesting for once, rather than just having the overarching plot get your attention (the main reason I wade through his writing).
I mostly cared about the characters, watching the PoWs waste away, horrified by what Jane Armitage is put through. In fact, I cared enough that it affected me when some of them died. This being the final book (I would assume, anyway, from the way he ends it), he's free to do what he wants with characters we will never see again. Thus, none of them are immune from dying. To watch what these characters go through, and then to watch them die, is much more affecting after two books in this series than it was in almost 6 books of his Great War series. Even the Japanese characters are fascinating, almost three-dimensional men (and all of the Japanese are men, of course). Their personalities are wonderfully drawn, and even within the Japanese military system, they are quite different. One of them even starts an affair with an important woman on the island, which surprised me to no end.
However, the Japanese characters bring me to one huge fault with the book, which is a problem in the whole series but is rammed home in this one. The scenes from the civilian and PoW points of view showcase the brutality of the Japanese occupation. They treat their prisoners worse than they would treat the scum on the bottom of their shoes. Prisoners are nothing to them, because they are so dishonored. Even the civilians, with the exception of a couple of random encounters with the occupiers, are treated horribly. However, when we see the main Japanese characters, they are normal human characters that we can almost sympathize with. They are fairly deep, they are interesting to read about (in fact, they are the most interesting characters in the book). The problem is that there is no link between these two portrayals at all. Barely a hint. I think they mention being taken prisoner as a dishonor, but that's it. There's none of the casual brutality. There's no mistreatment of any of the locals. The one main "character" who represents the horrible way the Japanese acted is not a viewpoint character at all. In fact, he's almost looked down upon by the main characters who see him. They don't even interact with him!
This indicates to me a case of Turtledove trying to play both sides at the same time. Since he constantly goes on about callousness being part of the Japanese military mentality, there should be at least some little bit of that in the Japanese military characters. It almost seems like he's afraid to give any of his viewpoint characters these kinds of flaws, because he doesn't want us to lose our identification with them (or our interest level, anyway). He seems to forget that he's turned one of his main viewpoint characters in the Great War books into a representation of the man in charge of instituting the Holocaust. I think we can live with a bit of brutality in our Japanese viewpoint characters. The worst thing they do, however, is slap a few of their underlings. Most of the time, it's the lower-ranked characters who are getting slapped, not the important ones doing the slapping.
Finally, I'd like to point out one of Turtledove's usual faults that actually ends up being a strength (intentionally or not). I have long been a critic of his attempt to write sex scenes, most of them making me feel icky as a reader. In End of the Beginning, however, he uses that difficulty to great effect. Whenever any of the romances have a sex scene, he generally cuts away or just proclaims it finished and they move on from there. He doesn't go into detail. In the Comfort Women sequences, however, he does go into detail. Of course, this detail makes the reader feel uncomfortable, but it's his clumsiness in doing so that adds even more to the effect, making it seem even worse. At the end of the book, you can certainly understand the women's reactions to those who tormented them like this, as you almost share that feeling. And all because Turtledove can't write a sex scene to save his life.
End of the Beginning is a fitting conclusion to this series. It almost made reading the first book worth while. If you like alternate World War II stories, this one is actually pretty good.
The situation involves a Japanese occupation of Hawaii. The US wants it back and has failed once already to take it. Caught in the middle are the POWs, the native and the occasional tourist who were trapped there on December 7th. This can be read as a military adventure and it does well as such but the best parts are the characterizations. The bad guys sometimes have some redeeming qualities. The good guys often have flagrant flaws and nothing is as simple as it seems. Especially telling is his account of two US born citizens of Hawaii whose father and mother are Japanese immigrants. Dad is loyal to the emperor; the kids are loyal to Uncle Sam and nobody really trusts them.
Its an exciting read. It is also a thought provoking one.
In this novel, the Japanese on Hawaii are short of oil and American submarines are preying on their supply lines. Although sufficient fuel is available to keep patrol planes and ships on station around the islands, civilian supplies are restricted to a few buses serving the island of Oahu. Even the sampans are using sails to travel to and from the fishing waters.
Most of the haoles on Hawaii are just barely surviving. Since a prisoner in his squad had escaped, Jim Peterson is now digging a useless tunnel to nowhere; he and his fellow POWs are being worked to death as an alternative to the firing squad. Fletch Armitage and other American POWs are performing hard manual labor, preparing gun positions and other fortifications (Japan had not signed the Geneva Convention); they are also being underfed, but not as severely as the death squads. Jane Armitage is slowly starving on a diet that is not quite enough, even though she is working hard in her garden.
Oscar van der Kirk is catching fish from his sail board and trading some of them for other food supplies; he even has time to surf. Susie Higgens, Oscar's live-in, is getting by OK with her secretarial job and Oscar's fish. Jiro Takahashi and his sons are doing very well by catching fish from the Oshima Maru, their sampan, and taking them back to Oahu; although the Japanese Army takes most of the catch for their own use, some portion is left to the fishermen to eat or trade. Ken Takahashi is giving some fish to Mrs. Sundberg and thereby avoiding any complaints about his dates with Elsie.
The Japanese soldiers are getting plenty of rice, but little else. Their officers are eating better than the common soldiers and the senior officers are occasionally enjoying most of the traditional Japanese foods. Nevertheless, good sake is very hard to obtain.
Back in the states, life goes on much as it has in the past. However, gas is rationed and most traffic is painted army drab or navy gray. Many more men are wearing uniforms now and the Marine Corps has opened a new post, Camp Pendleton, to accommodate the expected influx of trainees. Platoon Sergeant Lester Dillion and his friend Dutch Wenzel are amazed at the attitudes of some of these trainees.
Joe Crosetti is still learning how to fly a plane at the Pensacola Naval Air Station, but he has graduated from Stearman trainers to the Texan. He is still having trouble with navigation, but he is gradually getting better. His friend Orson Sharp continues to be about a week ahead of him in the training.
The Navy is building more aircraft carriers, but are still short of their requirements for a counter-invasion of Oahu. Nonetheless, this counter-invasion will come sooner or later. Maybe Crosetti and Sharp will be assigned to the attacking carriers.
This novel gradually builds toward the climatic counter-invasion of Hawaii. The United States cannot afford to abandon Hawaii, especially now that Japanese planes have bombed civilians in the continental US. To even suggest such a ploy would be political suicide.
Will this be the final book in the series? In some ways, it ties up all the dangling storylines, but a few remain. Jiro Takahashi is an unresolved thread, as are his sons. Kenzo has a haole sweetheart in a prejudiced society; will their growing intimacy lead to snubbing by the haole society?
The whole issue of the treatment of the nisei Japanese during World War II points out an ongoing arrogance within American culture. Every group of immigrants tries to snub the latecomers. Despite old world persecutions against them, each set of religious refugees turns against the next group of religious refugees fleeing to this country. And society matrons scorn the latest immigrants; for example, the Irish in Massachusetts were once considered to be scum.
Highly recommended for Turtledove fans and for anyone else who enjoys tales of alternate history and foreign cultures.
-Arthur W. Jordin
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