The Axis of Time: Recommended Reading

November 6, 2007 — 2 Comments

I’ve finally finished reading Australian author John Birmingham’s Axis of Time trilogy. I discovered the series by accident, picking up World War 2.3 at Perth airport on the way to the Valley in July (I always buy a book for the long flight).

I didn’t realize then that the book was part of the trilogy, so I read the final part first. It was only on my next flight that I realized that there were two books before it. I read World War 2.1 in September, and bought and read World War 2.2 in October.

I’m a picky reader, and I don’t read a lot, and what I read I’m fairly hard on. I loved these books.

Here’s the plot summary from Wikipedia: it gives some of it away, but it doesn’t give all three away

In 2021, a US-led Multinational Taskforce, commanded by Admiral Phillip Kolhammer is preparing to wage the latest campaign in the War on Terror: intervention in an Indonesia wracked by civil war between secularist and caliphate forces. The flagship is the aircraft carrier USS Hillary Clinton, named after “the most uncompromising wartime president in the history of the United States.” Attached to the task force is a mysterious research vessel whose scientists attempt an experiment with space and time. The experiment goes horribly wrong: the research ship is destroyed by the resulting wormhole while the task force is sent back in time to 1942 (It is also theorized that the task force fell sideways into an alternate universe 1942). The majority of the task force winds up being deposited in the Pacific on the eve of the Battle of Midway.

Accidentally, the time travelers collide with the US force that would have won the battle. The 21st century personnel are rendered unconscious and control reverts to AIs, a Japanese ship in the task force is spotted and the contemporary US Fleet opens fire. By the time both sides realise their mistake, most of the 1942 US Pacific Fleet has been destroyed.

At the same time, the northern Japanese fleet, en route to attack the Aleutian Islands, stumbles across an Indonesian frigate (Sutanto) and divines both what has happened near Midway and what the future holds for Japan. Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto is swiftly informed and orders the Japanese Fleet to sail home immediately.

The Allies head for Pearl Harbor, where tensions between the WASP male sailors of 1942 and the mixed-gender/ethnic/sexual personnel of 2021 result in riots, brawls and a murder. However, Allied leaders are already beginning to take note of future mistakes, advances and other windfalls of the Transition. The technology alone is astonishing enough, but the historical ramifications are even more momentous.

The Axis powers are not idle either. With the aid of both contemporary Axis officers and Indonesian sailors Yamamoto prepares a new plan designed to reverse the outcome of the war and stave off America?s rise to power. The Sutanto is stripped down while certain crew members make their peace with Allah and prepare for their final mission. Hitler is soon apprised of the Transition and dispatches his own envoys to Japan.

It’s reality futurism meets what if fiction, a rare mix in a book. Kolhammer meets Einstein who explains that the notion of a grandfather paradox is false due to parallel universe theory: basically by traveling back in time they’ve created a new parallel universe.

All three novels are great reading. It reminds me of Clancy a bit, but with a definite Australian interpretation. The concept of 2021 morals clashing with the ideals of 1942 make it an interesting consideration of the appalling standards of the past.

World War 2.1, 2.2 and 2.3 are a recommended read.