Winner of the 1989 Prometheus Award for Best Libertarian Fiction of the year, Mr. Linaweaver's "Moon of Ice" is incredibly frustrating.
It is not a bad book. In fact, the bulk of it is a rather good alternate history based on the premise that Germany won WWII. The frustration lies in the jarring lack of cohesion or integration.
There is a prologue which is not explained, and is brutal and cryptic at once. The meaning and context of the prologue are largely hidden until the final chapter, when it is revealed that they have no bearing on the main plot, but are merely a future (and rather arbitrary) consequence of it.
Then there is the first chapter, in which the consequences of the alternate history on the US are hinted at. This is a mixed bag, but drew me in. In essence, rather than creeping socialism taking control of all aspects of civilian life, the consequence of WWII in this time track was a creeping libertarianism and decreasing size of the federal government.
This is handled both well (the consequence of privately owned roads is that some roads are not owned or maintained, leading to moon crater potholes and the market solution of tires that can handle anything, but give a bone-jarring ride -- a concession to reality that few other libertarian novels ever make) and not so well (if a customer tips a waitress exceedingly well, she will serve him in the nude -- something I just don't buy at a posh restaurant in America, since the Puritan strain of our culture predates WWII by centuries).
But the various awkwardnesses are made up for in the fascinating background.
Then Mr. Linaweaver gives us many pages of autobiography from Joseph Goebbels's daughter, Hilda, which provide interesting insight into life in Germany after the victory. But it goes on too long. And then, the meat!
The daring conceit of this novel is that the bulk of it consists of the last entries in the diary of Joseph Goebbels himself, circa 1966. Whatever quibbles one may take with this portion of the novel, it is gripping, grotesque, and for the most part entirely believable. The only misstep, one that Linaweaver is quite conscious of and acknowledges, is the use of the hoary old cliche of the mad super-scientist who wants to destroy the world. The science he employs is simply not believable in the context presented, even for a super-genius.
That, however, is more than made up for in the scenes describing a Nazi propaganda film, and it's director, which turns out to be an exact analog of a very popular American film, right down to the racial stereotypes. And the American director, by implication, is skewered beautifully in the presentation of his alternate self.
So then the diary ends, and we are back in the mid 1970s with Goebbels's daughter and her publisher, and this is quite good too, living up to the diary. Until.
The final chapter is an epistle written in the year 2000, and clears up the "mystery" of the prologue. Once that is done, the letter then details events that would have been well-known to the recipient, and proceeds to semi-coherently relate the theme of the novel over and over and over again in a feeble attempt to bludgeon it into the reader's head. Then it does it again. And still again. It is so poorly written that one wonders if the author fell ill and somebody else filled in.
If I give the impression here of disliking the book, that is only because the last chapter was so incomprehensibly awful that it eclipses the considerable merits of the rest. Even without the ending, it is far from perfect, as noted. However, on the whole, I am glad to have read it.