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Designated Targets by John Birmingham

Designated Targets (2005)

by John Birmingham

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I found DESIGNATED TARGETS to be a big improvement over the first book in this trilogy: WEAPONS OF CHOICE. Maybe that was because WEAPONS had to devote a lot of time to setup and exposition, as a flotilla of a 21st Century multinational navy flotilla is flung through a wormhole and winds up smack in the middle of World War II on the eve of the battle of Midway. Just to even things up, ships from 2021 and their lethal technology, end up equally among the Allies and Axis powers, thus upending history and giving both sides a chance to annihilate the other. It also allows the world of 70 years ago a chance to peak into its future and for many, such Hitler and his henchmen, they do not like what they see. In other words, those who are forewarned are forearmed.

The primary focus of TARGETS is the war itself, unlike the first book, not nearly so much space is taken up with the inevitable cultural clash between the past and the future. A section of California has been assigned to the Time Travelers by the United States government where they are free to live as they please (racially integrated and sexually tolerant) as they aid the Allied war effort. Other units are active at the battle fronts in the Pacific, where Japan has invaded Australia, and in Europe, where Stalin has made peace with Hitler, thus allowing the Nazis to assemble an invasion force to throw against Great Britain. Both sides, along with the Soviets, are now in a nuclear arms race, each determined to be the first to get the Bomb and win the war.

Author John Birmingham really does have a Tom Clancy like touch when it comes to describing guns, warships, airplanes (both jets and 20th Century fighters) along with modern tech; he is able to explain things well to the uninitiated. And, unlike Clancy, I believe Birmingham is better at creating believable characters-for the most part. There is a large cast of characters as the action shifts from Australia to Hawaii to California to Great Britain to Germany to the Soviet Union, with a mixture of historical personages and fictional creations interacting. One of the more interesting plot threads concerns Prince Harry, the younger brother of the Prince of Wales and a 21st Century British Naval officer who finds himself fighting off the Nazi horde when they throw everything they’ve got across the English Channel. Other interesting chapters concern the fighting in Australia on the Brisbane Line as the Allies push back against a brutal Japanese invasion and a contemporary German who infiltrates the Reich and comes face to face with his Nazi ancestors. In Washington, J. Edgar Hoover is not happy that rumors about his private life have leaked out from the history books the people from the future possess, while a couple of opportunists have looked up Frank Sinatra, Marilyn Monroe, and the young Elvis Presley years before fame came knocking at their doors in our time. Some reviewers detected a liberal political slant because a 21st Century American naval vessel is named the Hillary Clinton, but I think the criticism is unfair, this is a book which could be enjoyed by liberals and conservatives equally, but most especially by history buffs.

DESIGNATED TARGETS, at just over 400 pages, is a quick read, and covers a lot of ground in a short time. For a middle book in a trilogy, where the story usually treads a lot of water, a lot happens. The book makes quite the contrast if, like me, the reader has read some of the great fiction to come out of World War II such as Herman Wouk’s THE WINDS OF WAR and WAR AND REMEMBRANCE. The book works well as military and historical fiction, although not really Alternate History, it can be considered science fiction. If anyone has ever wondered what would have happened if the Second World War had been fought with modern weapons, DESIGNATED TARGETS is for you. ( )
  wb4ever1 | Mar 30, 2016 |
Normally a book of 400 or so pages takes me 7 to 10 days to read if the book interests me at all. This book took a month to read.

The reason is... this is not one story. There is easily 6 or 7 novels in this book told in "Cole's Notes" style. Rarely does a chapter last more than 3-4 pages. You just find a bit that is interesting and then the scene changes to something completely different with new and old characters some of which you should remember and others who are throwaways. You don't get a chance to buy into the story in a strong can't-put-it-down frenzy since there is no consistent thread to the story... Too much going on in the stories to link them together in a coherent manner.

The author is a name dropper to excess. Marilyn Munroe, Frank Sinatra, Ronald Reagan, you name name them... they add nothing to the story but local color and you waste time reading about then.

If I have to describe the writing, racist comes to mind (though if I had not read it in another book of his not of the series I would ignore that here as it sort of applies), sketchy, though the detail is great for the 2-4 pages he allows to each scene. I also hated how he teased us at one point by apparently solving a murder from the previous book but never tells the reader who it was at least in this book.

I am not going to finish this series as I am bored with this format. ( )
  Lynxear | Mar 5, 2016 |
Good fun!! I am off to read the next book in the series. I enjoy Mr. Birmingham style....a solid SF Time travel adventure!! ( )
  stevetempo | Nov 25, 2015 |
This is not my sort of book. I generally don't read military SF, not for reasons of political or personal taste, but because I find most military SF heavy on the military and light on the SF. I picked up Birmingham's first book, Weapon of Choice, on a whim, and I'm glad I did.

There's some combat and some fun with high-tech weaponry, but there's also real SF, looking at the culture clash between 2020 and 1940, the effects that prolonged ideological wars might have on our current culture, and the impact of a glimpse of the future on course of the war. He also looks at more military topics like the impact that modern military theories of operations and training might have on WW II, as the high-tech ammo starts to run out.

It's a good read - and I'm looking forward to the third book. ( )
  Jawin | Jan 1, 2015 |
Exciting novel--#2 of 3 on Kindle. The characters deal with WWII using weapons from 2021 and history changes. One of the characters, Prince Harry (UK's #2) is a fun read. It's a little like US southern males where #1 inherits and #2 joins the military. I'm off to read #3, Final Impact. ( )
  buffalogr | Nov 5, 2013 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0345457153, Mass Market Paperback)

It’s World War II and the A-bomb is here to stay.
The only question: Who’s going to drop it first?

The Battle of Midway takes on a whole new dimension with the sudden appearance of a U.S.-led naval task force from the twenty-first century, the result of a botched military experiment. State-of-the-art warships are scattered across the Pacific, armed to the teeth with the latest instruments of mass destruction.

Nuclear warheads, rocket-propelled grenades, AK-47s, computer-guided missiles–all bets are off as the major powers of 1942 scramble to be the first to wield the weapons of tomorrow against their enemies. The whole world now knows of the Allied victory in 1945, and the collapse of communism decades later. But that was the first time around.

With the benefit of their newly acquired knowledge, Stalin and Hitler rapidly change strategies. A Russian-German ceasefire leaves the Führer free to bring the full weight of his vaunted Nazi war machine down on England, while in the Pacific, Japan launches an invasion of Australia, and Admiral Yamamoto schemes to seize an even greater prize . . . Hawaii.

Even in the United States the newcomers from the future are greeted with a combination of enthusiasm and fear. Suspicion leads to hatred and erupts into violence.

Suddenly it’s a whole new war, with high-tech, high-stakes international manipulations from Tokyo to D.C. to the Kremlin. As the world trembles on the brink of annihilation, Churchill, Stalin, Roosevelt, Hitler, and Tojo confront extreme choices and a future rife with possibilities–all of them apocalyptic.

From the Trade Paperback edition.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:12:38 -0400)

(see all 4 descriptions)

In the sequel to Weapons of Choice, both the Axis and Allies have the use of nuclear weapons, computer technology, and advanced knowledge of the supposed course of the war, as Hitler and Stalin form an alliance, the Japanese invade Hawaii and Australia, and the Nazis launch an all-out assault on Britain.… (more)

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