08 March 2012

Major (Book Review)

This is the 2nd part of author Marcin Ciszewski’s tale about the Polish battalion from 2007 which travelled back in time to the year of 1939. I started listening to this book after having finished “1939.pl.com”.

Some spoilers ahead!

So the first book ended with the Polish battalion from the future fighting a German onslaught in which their truck with the time travelling device was destroyed. Despite having won the battle, they realize that further operations are impossible. History is just slightly derailed, and the Polish army is still defeated just as history played out in “reality”. The commander of the Polish battalion, Grobicki, was wounded in the last fight and evacuated along with most of the US marines personnel to the United States where the American government of 1939 is informed about the time travelling device and technological data left in occupied Poland.

With most of the ammunition spent,  and not being able to travel back to their own time what remains of the Polish battalion must adapt to the situation accordingly. Command is handed over to Wojtynski , commander of the small band of Polish special forces “GROM” which had also been thrown back in time.  He makes sure to hide what equipment that remains, divide the destroyed time travelling device in two pieces and hides them away in secret sites far out in the nearby forest. He also starts training the Polish “Armia Krajowa” members to match the standard of tactics and weapon handling to the soldiers from the future. What remains of the battalion, simply joins the polish resistance but retain their own independence – manufacturing weapons, carrying out assassinations and sabotage missions to the occupying Germans and work side by side with the conspiracy brewing in occupied Warsaw.

The story of this book is equally interesting to the first book (1939.pl.com), but also a lot more serious in tone. It could be because most of the story is told either from the point of view of Gestapo officers, commander Wojtynski who is a serious guy and Soviet agents. The story itself is less linear this time around. We follow the preparations of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising of 1943, where the Polish soldiers from the future plan to help the Ghetto fighters while evacuating most of the children. The second storyline follows the German investigation about the “time travelers”, the Germans being aware of them by this point and looking into the matter hoping to learn more about the new weapons and the time travelling device itself. Third storyline is about Soviet agents operating in Warsaw, these guys are a lot more informed and know that the time travelling device holds a small nuclear reactor which could give the Soviet union the edge in the ongoing war. We also have a 4th minor storyline about the Americans who send their own negotiators to Warsaw to discuss terms about handing over the remains of the time travelling device – while the Poles try to use it to their advantage so that history won’t repeat itself once the war is won. Obviously they don’t want to live in a communist occupied Poland.

So you have all these parallel storylines and a bunch of new great characters, Polish as well as German and Russian ones.  Equal parts spy thriller and war story. The author continues to handle the whole time travelling paradox really well. Some deviations from history occur as the people from the future inform their governments about future events such as Pearl Harbor. Other times killing one German commander leads to a slightly different turn of events. Contemporary politics are thrown into the mix to give greater understanding about the motivation for all sides as opposed to the first book.

Historical characters are also interacted with. The Polish commander of the Armia Krajowa, Tadeusz Bor-Komorowski discuss plans with the commanders of the troops from the future. Heinrich Himmler gets his phone tapped (in a quite funny scene) and Soviet agents report about their findings and progress in Warsaw to Joseph Stalin. The author manages to weave these historical personalities into the story in a natural way and make them part of it rather than a gimmick pulled out of a hat for fun. It is actually impressive; the amount of self control the author has to keep the historical personalities to a bare minimum.

While I was grinning like an idiot about the fantastic events and over the top entertainment of the first book I found this one to be a superb follow up and continuation of the story. The way the time travelers are handled and behave is both logical, realistic and feels authentic.

Looking forward to listening to the continuation of the story in “1944.was.pl” (I admit I find the titles silly). The next book will see the return of commander Grobicki and take place during the Warsaw Uprising of 1944.

Sadly, as with the book "www.1939.pl.com", and the other books in the series "1944.waw.pl" and "Ru2012.pl" it doesn't seem to have an English translation yet. This sucks as I think this particular book would be more open in regard to its content to a wider audience compared to the first one.

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