Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Review: Rising Sun by Robert Conroy

Guest post by A.J. Nolte.
There's nothing fundamentally wrong with Rising Sun, the newest World War II novel by Robert Conroy. The writing is fine, the scenario is plausible [Editor's Note: Not everyone would agree with you.], the action scenes are interesting and engaging, and the characters are moderately intriguing. By far the biggest problem with Rising Sun isn't this book on its own, but rather when you compare it to all of Conroy's other books, particularly his recent string of World War II novels.

I started reading Conroy with 1862, his re-imagining of the American Civil War in which the British support the Confederates. While I could certainly quibble with some of the choices Conroy made in 1862, the novel was enjoyable, engaging and not entirely implausible. By far my favorite  Conroy novel was 1901, which posited a German invasion of the United States in order to gain control of America's newly-one colonies. This scenario isn't Conroy's most plausible, but it was definitely one of a kind. Since 1901 however, Conroy has written four consecutive World War II scenarios: Red Inferno 1945, 1942, Himmler's War and Rising Sun. In all four of these books, the  characters, initial scenario and eventual outcome are remarkably similar. So if you've read 1942, Rising Sun is going to feel extremely familiar, perhaps too much so.

The premise of Rising Sun is a crushing U.S. defeat at the Battle of Midway. In the aftermath, the U.S. scrambles to pull together its fleet, while the Japanese attempt to take the war to the Americans more directly. Unfortunately, the book rapidly engages all of Conroy's favorite tropes: the young military hero, with the assistance and support of his skinny, intellectual love interest attempts to implement a strategy which will culminate in American victory, despite grumbling from high command and the intervention of military politics. I'll leave the ending for you to guess, and if you've read many of Conroy's books, it shouldn't be difficult.

There were certainly some strong scenes and characters in Rising Sun. Amanda, the previously-mentioned skinny, intellectual love interest, is a rather compelling character who faces interesting challenges (think crossing the Pacific in a small boat). Conroy also focuses on the U.S. mainland here, which is somewhat unique. The addition of the FBI angle, and the land action in Alaska sort of set this book apart. And, as I mentioned above, there's nothing fundamentally wrong with this book; if you liked the Conroy formula in his previous novels, you'll probably like this one. For real World War II buffs and people new to Robert Conroy's writings, I might recommend Rising Sun. But if you've already read Red Inferno 1945 or 1942, Conroy's other novels set in the Pacific, and don't have a deep personal interest in the Battle of Midway, you might want to spend your money somewhere else.

Grade: 3.5 out of 5 stars.

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A.J. Nolte is a PHD candidate in international relations at Catholic University and an aspiring sci-fi and alternate history writer . He is knowledgeable in Byzantine, medieval, ACW, Cold War, Islamic and post-colonial history. Also, he'll read almost anything once if it's got an airship in it.

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