Category Archives: alternative history

Review of ” Stealing the Future: An East German Spy Thriller (East Berlin Series Book 1)” by Max Hertzberg

A fascinating alternative history of the two Germanys as well as a gripping thriller.

Max Hertzberg has come up with a fascinating alternative history of 1989 and after for Germany. It’s 1993, the Wall is open, however East Germany hasn’t been subsumed into West Germany. It has decided to stay independent and run the country via a grassroots participatory democracy, resulting in decentralising most decision making to neighbourhood committees in which everyone participates. However, all is not well in the new GDR as dark forces are trying to destabilise it.

The story revolves around Martin Grobe, a former dissident and now part of the Republicschutz, a post 9th Nov 1989 counter-espionage service which has responsibility for monitoring attempts to undermine the new East Germany. He is investigating the murder of prominent politician at a mine in West Silesia, a region looking to join West Germany.

The author certainly knows Berlin and East Germany well and captures the period in great detail even down to way the 1980s era S-Bahn train doors operate. However, what brings the story alive are the characters struggling to keep alive their dream of freedom, justice and equality in the face of corruption, West German pressure for unification and the dark forces that enforced the old regime.

Whilst some may see this book as some sort of left wing fairy tale I found the book stimulating and vastly different from standard spy thriller fare with its parallel exploration of political self-determination and de-centralisation of power.

Further books in the series are planned and I for one will be keen to follow how Grobe and the “new” East Germany fares further into the 1990s.

This book is currently free (as of Jan 2016) on Smashreads, link here…

I received this book for free from the author in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.


Review of “Grey Tide in the East” By Andrew J Heller

Disappointing alternative history of World War 1.

This quick (only 160 pages long) alternative history based in the theory of Germany not invading Belgium in 1914, but concentrating on France and Russia fighting leaving Britain neutral.

Although the premise is a fascinating one the delivery is somewhat leaden and leaves a lot to be desired. Heller has obviously done his research but the book’s characters are very one dimensional and the narrative plodding.

Apart from some cameo appearances of historical characters such as Churchill, Joe Stilwell and Churchill from later “real” history the book leaves this reader feeling short changed.

Apart from Harry Turtledove there’s surprisingly few World War 1 alternative histories out there and I can’t help feeling that if David Downing had written this with same quality as his Moscow Option: An Alternative Second World War then I would be giving a far more supportive review.

Review of “Look Who’s Back (Er is wieder da)” by Timur Vermes

With all the fuss about this book, I felt I had to read it in order to form my own opinion.

It’s very much what I’d call a marmite book – some will love it and some will hate it. Those that will hate it will in the main be those that have either studied the 3rd Reich in detail or have been personally affected it.

I must admit I did feel a real unease reading this book. Whilst I’ll find Mel Brook’s “The Producers” funny this book is a very different proposition as it’s told from an imagined Hitler point of view. The imagined Hitler is essentially portrayed as a grumpy old man struggling with the modern world with all the hatred and prejudices of the real person.

The book does ask some interesting questions about the keys to his power in the 1930s, how many of those elements still exist and for example how a modern day Hitler would exploit social media.

I was hoping that Hitler would experience an epiphany at some point, and did think that was going to happen when one of the characters talks of the sadness and anger of their Jewish relative at the fact that they are working with what is believed to be a very accurate Hitler impersonator.

However, any epiphany never happens and all we have is a character that you could feel sympathy for viewing the modern world seen through an imagined Hitler’s eyes.

Whilst some may argue that it shows how a new Hitler figure could appear again and that it’s very profound, I can’t help being very uncomfortable with Hitler being portrayed as simplistically as a grumpy old man struggling with the modern world despite the message.

I can’t recommend this book. It’s too close to a horrific period of world history, but it does makes you think. All I can hope is that by reaching a wider audience than a dry history book it may make that audience read further to fully understand the horror that was the 3rd Reich.