Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Book review - The Steel Wave.

Finished reading The Steel Wave this morning. This is the latest in a series written by Jeff Shaara and brings the series up through the D-Day landings in Normandy.

Mr. Shaara started writing this series after the production of the movie Gettysburg, which was based on his father's book, Killer Angels. He first finished the Civil War and then went back to Revolution. Two books on the revolution and one on the Mexican War bring the series to the three books on the Civil War. After that is one one WW1 and, so far, two on WW2. Officially labeled as historical fiction, the series is very close to a historical rendering of events.

I have found all of Mr. Shaara's work to be excellent and The Steel Wave is no exception. Once again, war is viewed through the eyes of those who fight it. From Eisenhower, Patton, and Rommel, to the fictional characters in the enlisted ranks; each has their own story and unique vantage point. They all have different motives and ideas about fighting the war.

While the Allied players are perhaps more familiar, I found Rommel to be particularly intriguing. Historians have long debated whether he knew about the Holocaust and his exact involvement in the plot to assassinate Hitler. Shaara has apparently concluded from his research that Rommel knew little of the plot and was only beginning to become aware that something was dreadfully wrong in the treatment of the Jews. Trapped by his perceived duty to obey but nagged by his conscience, Rommel is torn as to a course of action. In the end he does nothing but still cannot escape. In one passage he asks himself about the world that his son will inherit because nobody had the courage to say no to Hitler earlier. He then asks himself if anyone has the courage now. He leaves the question unanswered.

In summary, Mr. Shaara has again lived up to the high bar he has set for himself in his previous work. The Steel Wave is a must read for any history buff, those interested in human psychology, and everyone who appreciates a ripping good yarn. You would do yourself a favor though to start with the founding of the nation and the beginning of the series.

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