V-S Day: A Novel of Alternate History
by Allen Steele
Cover Artist: New York CIty by Fred Stein Archive/Getty Images; rocket by iStockphoto;
paper texture by Ilalah/Shutterstock; and American flag by Paul Stringer/Shutterstock
Review by Bill Lawhorn
Ace Hardcover ISBN/ITEM#: 9780425259740
Date: 04 February 2014 List Price $26.95 Amazon US / Amazon UK
What if the real race of WW II wasn't to develop a nuclear bomb, but to reach space? How would the world be different? Author Allen Steele goes back to these questions as he expands the ideas that he created in earlier short stories.
The story unfolds several decades in the future, as the survivors of Goddard's team relate the events of WWII from their perspective. The flashback scenes describe how they come together, work, and move towards destiny. The catalyst is a reporter that is coming to learn the missing facts of the project.
As Nazi Germany is nearing successful launches of its rocket bombs, priorities change. Domination of Space will allow the Reich to control the world. Wernher von Braun is tasked with providing a path to space. His team must develop a way to deliver bombs to the shore of North America.
British Intelligence discovers the secret plans to build a rocketship that can attack anywhere in the world. Based on this information, the United States calls upon their premier rocket scientist, Robert Goddard. Goddard and his team go to work developing a ship and a system to intercept the Nazi spaceship. They face administrative challenges as they are separated from the assembly of their designs. They also are at risk from saboteurs.
This is an interesting alternate history as it is both standard and atypical. Like many stories of this genre, it revolves around a war. Also typical is that it is WWII, one of the more popular points of divergence. The difference is that the action is generally based on the action of scientists, not the politicians or men on the front lines. The world that develops is barely hinted at by the end, but it is one quite different from our own.
As it is based on some of his earlier stories, fans will recognize some of the backstory. Those prior stories are not required as V-S Day is Steele's attempt to make the story what he envisioned. I really like the fact that this is a standalone novel. Not every story needs a dozen sequels to complete the development and story.
Prior to V-S Day, I can't recall ever having read Allen Steele's work. Now, I will be looking for more of his work. When I was reading, I got the same feeling I had when reading Back to the Moon by Travis Taylor and Les Johnson. There is definitely the sense of discovery and entering new territories.