20 February 2011

9. Weapons Of Choice

Weapons Of Choice - John Birmingham

I thought the idea behind this novel was very interesting and could not wait to read it. I found out it was the first part in a trilogy and got even more excited about it. The other two are already on the shelf and waiting to be read.

This is a story about a multi-national military task force from the year 2021 that is headed on a peacekeeping mission to Indonesia where Islamic extremists have seized Jakarta. Due to some unrest in the region a research vessel working in the area is also being protected by the task force. That vessel is conducting experiments to create small stable worm-holes. The experiment goes awry and the task force is absorbed by a huge worm hole and transported in time.

They arrive in 1942. Pearl Harbor has already been attacked. Admiral Spruance is in charge of his fleet and headed to Midway for an infamous battle with Yamamoto.

That alone was interesting enough to get me to read the book. Imagine what having weapons systems even a decade more advanced that the ones we currently have and using them against an enemy from the 1940s. The advantage would be overwhelming. Rockets, jets, helicopters, radar, computers, communications equipment, stealth, automatic rifles, night-vision technologies, infra-red, hovercraft, laser-guided technology, body armor, etc etc etc. All of these things did not exist at all in the 1940s.

So, I read the book thinking that all these advantages would lead to an easier war for Americans and possibly a Japanese surrender without having to actually using nuclear weapons. I thought it would be a fun little jaunt for our superior forces onto islands that were in real history some bloody and costly battles with tremendous casualties on both sides.

What I got was different. The naval battle at Midway didn't happen after Spruance's fleet ran into the task force that suddenly appeared. The personnel on the task force were all rendered unconscious for a period of time after the "transition". The task force ships recognized this fact with the sensors and computers on the ships and entered an auto-pilot program. While under auto-pilot is when the 1942 folks located the 2021 folks...and they were multi-national...and there were ships flying the flag of Japan. So, needless to say, despite being like "What the heck is that thing?" the 1942 Americans freaked out and attacked the 2021 ships. The 2021 ships on auto-pilot defended themselves. Both sides take a bunch of damage and history is changed in that instance. No more battle at Midway.

What is so different about that? Nothing. It came after that. About 75% of this book had nothing to do with war at all. It had to do with fitting thousands of people from 2021 into a 1942 world and making it work. Imagine the differences. Racial equality was tremendously different. Women's rights...very different. These two social differences were huge parts of the story. Imagine a black lesbian female being the commander of an American aircraft carrier. No big deal today, but it sure would have been in 1942. Any one of those adjectives (black, lesbian or female) would have meant she would not only never command such a ship, but that she would never even serve on one in any capacity at all.

Those kinds of interactions between peoples of both times were very interesting. Then there was some pretty cool stuff that comes with knowing what would happen before it happens.

For instance, there was a meeting where Admiral Kolhammer (2021) was briefing President Franklin D. Roosevelt and other cabinet and military on the capabilities of his forces. Present at the meeting were folks like Admirals Halsey and Nimitz, General MacArthur, and many others. One of them was general Dwight D Eisenhower. Eisenhower was to become President one day. Since the 2021 folks had all this history in their computer libraries President Roosevelt and General Eisenhower both knew that this was to happen in the future. When Eisenhower disagreed with something Roosevelt said at the meeting Roosevelt said to him "You are not president yet!" That was hilarious to me. Those kinds of things were quite funny.

Another quite funny interaction was when Kolhammer was visiting with Albert Einstein. The conversations were pretty cool.

I was also glad to see that despite all this hardware popping into a world that preceeded the technologies by 80 years that the charachters all realized that they would not suddenly start cranking out tons of cruise missles from American factories. They knew that even with the knowledge they suddenly acquired it would take decades for the undustrial aspects of that technology to catch up to the knowledge they now had.

I figured this would be a fun book to read where the technology would be the star. It turned out that the characters stole the show. It was quite good and I am looking forward to reading the second and third books in the series.

Oh, I almost forgot. The biggest baddest aircraft carrier of them all, the flagship of the multi-national task force...it is the USS Hillary Clinton. It is explained that she was President, a champion of the Navy, and brutally assassinated. Before her death the world had learned not to mess with her because she unleashed the military force upon her enemies ruthlessly. That was an interesting little tidbit from the future that tramsmitted to the past. :-)

Something else I found to be very cool was that there was no Bataan Death March. The tens of thousands of American POWs that actually died horrible deaths in Japanese prison camps were rescued by the multi-national task force. That was the one and only mission performed by the task force against the Japanese forces. The 2021 folks knew it was going to happen and it was important that they prevented such suffering.

Next stop...Auschwitz? I can only hope

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