24 November 2008

Review: Agent Zigzag

Agent Zigzag: A True Story of Nazi Espionage, Love, and Betrayal Agent Zigzag: A True Story of Nazi Espionage, Love, and Betrayal by Ben MacIntyre

My review

rating: 4 of 5 stars
On my way to work, a co-worker asked me what I was reading so avidly. I replied "Agent ZigZag. It's about a British bank robber who is stuck in WWII occupied Europe, volunteers to be a spy for the Germans, parachutes into Britain and immediately calls MI5 to volunteer to work for them instead."

"So fiction then." my co-worker replied.

"No way, they can't write fiction this absurd. It'd never get published." (in a later chapter, an MI5 interrogator wrote almost that same line into Eddie Chapman's files).

The thing is, I was only half-way into the book. I still hadn't gotten to Eddie Chapman's adventures in Lisbon, Oslo, Berlin, or his second parachute jump into the British countryside.

This is one of two books about Eddie Chapman's wartime exploits as a double (or is it triple or quad or something) agent. I haven't gotten my hands on the other one, entitled just Zigzag. According to the NYT review, this is the "more graceful(ly)" written of the two books, and importantly, the more skeptical. Chapman himself had a habit of retelling his story in a way that best fit the wants of the listener. So there is a need for the author to corroborate the cleaims of meeting both Churchill and Hitler.

I have to wonder when the movie version is coming. There was a 1966 movie Triple Cross, but from all accounts it was so censored by the Official Secrets Act and rewritten as to be merely "inspired by," history and truly owes more to James Bond than Eddie Chapman (though both Ian Fleming and the inspiration for his fictional tech-geek "Q" do appear in the book).

More evidence that large chunks of WWII seem to have been cast and written by pulp-fiction writers!

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20 November 2008

End of a Fascist Confederate States -- Review of "In At the Death"

Settling Accounts: In at the Death (Settling Accounts) Settling Accounts: In at the Death by Harry Turtledove

review rating: 2 of 5 stars
Not bad...not the best in the series. I spent the second half of the book wondering what Turtledove was waiting for to end the book. As it turns out, not much...it just kind of ends.

Maybe someone else can confirm, but I'm pretty sure that this is the end of the rather massive Timeline-191 series. From "How Few Remain" we've had eleven volumes in total.

The whole series was rather good I thought, but things become more and more forced once Turtledove had committed himself to a Second World War. The parrallels became too forced, a common problem with the alt-history genre in general. Sometimes I get the feeling the author just wanted this series to go away.

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