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Ryan's Reviews: Fatherland, by Robert Harris

The Red

Well-known member
Published by SLP
#2
Great review, I wasn’t really into AH when I read Fatherland, nor was I that aware of Robert Harris but now I’m big fans of both it’s always going to be special for me. I think that whilst you point out the Nazi victory scenario was arguably overdone even prior to its release Fatherland has arguably shaped the scope of such scenarios more than any other work. It’s no coincidence that so many Nazi victory TLs seem to stall around 1964.

On Heydrich, I’ve seen it theorised that his survival is actually the PoD with him going on to influence the discovery that Enigma had been cracked. Plausibility wise the scenario doesn’t really hold up but Nazi victory scenarios are always going to suffer from that, and it’s vague enough to imply that Harris was aware of this, or at least was more focused on telling an interesting story in a well crafted dystopia than proving that the Nazis could have won the war.
 

Death's Companion

General Ugg Apologist.
#4
I think one failing point is how Harris acknowledges that the Nazis were never going to make General Plan Ost work properly with most of the settlers either returning home or being murdered and the new border with the rump USSR being far too massive to effectively control but holds back on portraying it as a disaster zone or that important.


If the cornerstone of Nazi policy is acknowledged as a failure and the death toll in trying to make it happen is high enough for the freaking Nazis to worry about the public losing faith and so subtly pretend nothing is really happening one way or the other...I think that could use more exploration.


The world building is rather interesting but I think that as great as the book is (and it is great) plausibility is not the only short coming, the setting is bit underwhelming. Total Nazi domination of Europe is portrayed as kind of tame, the colonization efforts of the east have failed but aren't worth expanding on at all and suddenly the Holocaust is the thing that threatens to break it all apart? I guess its just I feel even on its own terms the book doesn't live up to its promise.
 

RyanF

Abbot of Unreason
Patreon supporter
Published by SLP
Location
Falkirk
#5
Great review, I wasn’t really into AH when I read Fatherland, nor was I that aware of Robert Harris but now I’m big fans of both it’s always going to be special for me. I think that whilst you point out the Nazi victory scenario was arguably overdone even prior to its release Fatherland has arguably shaped the scope of such scenarios more than any other work. It’s no coincidence that so many Nazi victory TLs seem to stall around 1964.
Indeed, I think what Harris succeeded in was taking something that had already been done to death and putting a new (and arguably better) spin on it. Nazi Germany emerges from the Second World War victorious, but gone is its global domination, gone is the Empire of Japan also emerging victorious and in its place is a Third Reich largely confined to Europe locked in a Cold War with the United States.

On Heydrich, I’ve seen it theorised that his survival is actually the PoD with him going on to influence the discovery that Enigma had been cracked. Plausibility wise the scenario doesn’t really hold up but Nazi victory scenarios are always going to suffer from that, and it’s vague enough to imply that Harris was aware of this, or at least was more focused on telling an interesting story in a well crafted dystopia than proving that the Nazis could have won the war.
A fair explanation, and the presence of Heydrich as chief conspirator does add something to the proceedings. I always enjoyed in the novel how Eichmann, who OTL became probably the most infamous attendee of the Wannsee Conference, in the Fatherland ATL is just another forgotten apparatchik eliminated by Heydrich before the events of the novel.

I think one failing point is how Harris acknowledges that the Nazis were never going to make General Plan Ost work properly with most of the settlers either returning home or being murdered and the new border with the rump USSR being far too massive to effectively control but holds back on portraying it as a disaster zone or that important.


If the cornerstone of Nazi policy is acknowledged as a failure and the death toll in trying to make it happen is high enough for the freaking Nazis to worry about the public losing faith and so subtly pretend nothing is really happening one way or the other...I think that could use more exploration.


The world building is rather interesting but I think that as great as the book is (and it is great) plausibility is not the only short coming, the setting is bit underwhelming. Total Nazi domination of Europe is portrayed as kind of tame, the colonization efforts of the east have failed but aren't worth expanding on at all and suddenly the Holocaust is the thing that threatens to break it all apart? I guess its just I feel even on its own terms the book doesn't live up to its promise.
This is a fair point, but one of the strong points of Harris in worldbuilding within the novel is just things like this that really add colour. There's an argument to be made that his ATL is stymied by the novel it is latched on to. Certainly I agree that the hints we get of the situation in the East just wets the appetite for more, but the fact it is left as a background detail of everyday fact to the characters speaks volumes. The train loads of coffins arriving in the dead of night, the fact Jost being assigned to the East is accepted by March as a death sentence, the implication of what's missing from the propaganda given the acceptance of the fact that communication is patchy out East.

I would love to see something done in a failing Reichskommissariat after the War, it's one of the reasons Mark Lynch's Reich of Renegades was so appealing.

There's plenty of other aspects of the world Harris created I'd like to see more on. The coming generation of Germans that did not live through either World War strikes me as being a great idea as well. The fact that the Fab Four are playing in Hamburg and are big enough to make the papers but similar enough to their OTL counterparts to be decried, the fact the White Rose is active again, that there's a new crop of university educated SS technocrats in ascendancy. What's life like in the UK of this TL twenty years after being starved into surrender is another? Was there ever a Hungarian Revolution type situation ITTL with one of the Nazi puppet states?

With regard to the Holocaust breaking everything apart, we only have March's final hallucination that Maguire made it out. Even if it breaks the international news it will still be very difficult for it to penetrate the Reich proper or even Europe. Even if they did I wonder if it would break it apart more than inspire the new generation of White Rose et al. into some direct action akin to our own 1960s student movements.
 

Skinny87

WELCOME TO LUFTWAFFLES HOME OF THE GRAND SLAM
Patreon supporter
Published by SLP
Pronouns
He/Him
#6
Fantastic review, Ryan, and very glad to see that you'll be able to keep reviewing when I have to cut down on AH reviews due to real life - the blog's in good hands!
 

Alex Richards

She needs an artificial Mountain, not AV
Patreon supporter
Published by SLP
Location
Derbyshire
#7
There's plenty of other aspects of the world Harris created I'd like to see more on. The coming generation of Germans that did not live through either World War strikes me as being a great idea as well. The fact that the Fab Four are playing in Hamburg and are big enough to make the papers but similar enough to their OTL counterparts to be decried, the fact the White Rose is active again, that there's a new crop of university educated SS technocrats in ascendancy. What's life like in the UK of this TL twenty years after being starved into surrender is another? Was there ever a Hungarian Revolution type situation ITTL with one of the Nazi puppet states?

With regard to the Holocaust breaking everything apart, we only have March's final hallucination that Maguire made it out. Even if it breaks the international news it will still be very difficult for it to penetrate the Reich proper or even Europe. Even if they did I wonder if it would break it apart more than inspire the new generation of White Rose et al. into some direct action akin to our own 1960s student movements.
I mean it could be that the combination of these two leads to an attempt at *Prague in London.
 

RyanF

Abbot of Unreason
Patreon supporter
Published by SLP
Location
Falkirk
#8
I mean it could be that the combination of these two leads to an attempt at *Prague in London.
That's a real possibility, and I think unlike the similar situation portrayed in @Meadow's Meet the New Boss the Reich owing to requirements in the East along with two decades of peace in Western Europe might not be able to ship the tanks across the Channel with any urgency.