"The Man With The Iron Heart" (part 2)

"The Man With The Iron Heart" (part 2)

If The Man With The Iron Heart reminds you of recent and current events, it's no coincidence - Turtledove admitted the two stories complemented one another. Sometimes it's too blatant, and occasionally it comes off as a morality tale ("Mr. President," Turtledove seems to say, "if you bring our troops home before the job is done, this is what will happen, in graphic and minute detail.") Such are the parallels that if you were to switch names and dates, you wouldn't know one from the other. That said, this book should prove excellent debate-material for people on both sides of the fence.

 

Turtledove's characterization has never been his strong point, and the cast of The Man With The Iron Heart don't break the pattern. Diana McGraw alternates between a sympathetic mother who lost her son in a war that should be over, an almighty pain in the hindquarters in making sure no other mother suffers the same fate, and someone who's just loving the attention. Why throw that in there, Mr. Turtledove? She's enabling the Nazis, we know we're not supposed to like her. Why make her a celebrity? Lou Weissberg comes off as one of the more grounded characters, a grunt who was looking forward to going home, but now has to watch his every step for booby-traps.

Reinhard Heydrich is presented in all his intelligence, cunning and bloodlust. For all the biographies on him, not much compares to how Turtledove describes him biding his time, waiting for the right moment to unleash another suicide attack on Allied or Russian troops - dreaming, all the while, of the Nazi empire rising from the ashes.

If the Nazis were the most evil group of men to have walked the Earth, Heydrich occupies a special place in hell for his crimes. In The Man With The Iron Heart, we see his burning intelligence and desire, like when his eyes light up at the news of the atomic bomb. You think of what a man like that, with brains behind his barbarism, would do with a nuclear weapon in his hands. And you get down on your knees and thank God that The Man With The Iron Heart is only a work of fiction. "Only a work of fiction," you tell yourself. "Only a work of fiction."

It will never be a great work of fiction - wooden characters and a forced comparison to modern times make you flirt with the fast-forward button - but in the vein of all classic alternative history, The Man With The Iron Heart asks "What if?" And better than that, it makes you wonder