Festung Europa: The Anglo-American Nazi War is a very tricky book. Judged by one standard, It’s a World War III with the same participants as our World War II, fought with what amounts to Korean War-era technology. This kind of tale doesn’t have that much leeway in how it’s set up.
Who And What
Festung Europa tells of how, after a German victory on the Eastern Front in World War II, the Reich and United States have the inevitable confrontation.
This is not really a story, it’s a recitation of equipment and events. A routine cheap thriller is gigaparsecs ahead of this in terms of actual “story-ness”, and even an excessively infodumpy tale is still far close to a conventional story than this. I want to make clear that this is not necessarily a bad thing. This pseudo-historical document style can work.
That being said, I feel that there are several pitfalls to this style. First, it utterly demands the reader be already interested in the subject matter, for there’s no plot or characters to gain attraction to. Second, at least to me, it opens the work up for more plausibility criticisms, because beyond the blanket talk, it’s hard to criticize it on grounds other than “does it make sense?”
And the “prose”, such as it is, feels clunky in this case even by the standards of history books or historical genres.
DEEP HISTORY OF TEM
You will learn exact casualty rates. You will learn the exact details of tanks. You lurn because yu at tem wur cool leg to learn tem’s DEEP HISTORY. If the entire book is one infodump, which it is, can it be considered many infodumps or just one big infodump?
The major contrivances are:
- The German victory on the Eastern Front being done in an openly handwaved manner.
- Allied firepower, particularly air power, being probably a little too effective given the time period.
- The Germans sidelining the Heer, turning the SS into what amounts to their entire military, and devolving dramatically in terms of skill. (I’m one of the first to criticize the “super-military only beaten by the Allies throwing more Shermans and T-34s than they had antitank rounds” cliches, but still think it went too far in the opposite direction)
There’s more than that if I wanted to dig deeper.
None of these are too bad by themselves and some can be arguable. The problem is that, as mentioned above, there’s no “cushion”. This isn’t like “well, the setup is weird [if understandable] but the action/characters/pacing is good”. No, this is just a sequence of events, and thus every zombie sorceress handwave makes itself a lot clearer and a lot more blatant.
There are no booming tanks. There are simply narrations of “this unit of tanks went boom.” The “action” is extremely clinical. And often repetitive.
The Only Score That Really Matters
This is a stark example of an ultra-niche story. Do you want a hypothetical pseudo-history of a German-American third world war? Do you care if it’s drier than the Gobi Desert? Are you willing to accept unfiltered contrivances?
If the answer is yes, then Festung Europa is for you. If the answer is no, it isn’t. This kind of specialty alternate history has a very narrow audience base, and it’s no shame to not be in it.