It's been a little while, too long I think, since I've read one of Dr. Harry Turtledove's novels. With After the Downfall, I remedied that deficiency.
After the Downfall, by Harry Turtledove feels somewhat familiar to an experienced reader of Turtledove's work. We have a fantasy world with unusual magic. We have a sympathetic Wehrmacht officer in the mold of Heinrich Jäger from the Worldwar series. We have some speculations on the nature of Gods (Goddesses actually) in a world where belief in them gives them power. We get medieval battle tactics. We get sex.
In this case, however, Turtledove decides to mix them together, add some interesting characters and see what comes out of such alchemy.
Hasso Pemsel is not having a good day. You wouldn't either if you were a German army officer in 1945, with the Russians knocking on the door of the Museum in Berlin you have been, improbably, been asked to guard.
Joking around with his soldiers, he sits on an Omphalos stone...and finds himself in a different world entirely. With his gun, he saves a blond bombshell from a group of pursuers armed with primitive weapons. His reward from the woman for saving her from her pursuers is somewhat unexpected, but it puts him foursquare on the side of her people, the Lenelli, in their own pursuit of lebensraum in a new land. Hasso learns the language, learns how special Velona really is (a sometime avatar of the Goddess of the Lenelli) and joins their struggle against their even more primitive neighbors in a world of medieval weapons and magic. Fortunately, while Hasso's ammo is limited, his knowledge and ability to help his new found friends is not.
Homage to L Sprague De Camp (a la Martin Padway or Harold Shea)? I think so. Wish fulfillment for Hasso? No. Unfortunately, for Hasso, he gets a dose of reality when he gets fully engaged in a war between the Lenelli and the Grenye...
As I said above, the novel does have elements seen in Turtledove's earlier work. It would be a mistake to say this was a paint by numbers affair, since he does explore sociological questions in a new way, and some of the mid-rank characters are interesting and well developed (in addition to Hasso, who has the most character growth of course). Turtledove lets us learn more about Hasso's new world in bits and pieces and we get a real sense of what's going on, and the readers sympathies can gradually and naturally change along with the protagonist's. Its not really a spoiler to suggest that the Lenelli-Grenye struggle is very much analogous to the German-Russian portion of the conflict of World War II. The historical allegory is strong, but not overpowering.
I wouldn't start here as a first Turtledove novel.It's not Turtledove's best novel, but fans of Turtledove (like me) who have read a decent spread of his work will certainly enjoy it.
Harry Turtledove returns to the world of fantasy with something that isn't- quite- alternative history. "After the Downfall" tells the story of a German officer during the waning days of World War II. As the Russian hordes are about to assault his position he touches a magical stone (just go with it), and winds up transported into a fantasy realm. Fans of the "Legion of Videssos" books will recognize the notion of a magical artifact … more