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In the Presence of Mine Enemies by Harry…

In the Presence of Mine Enemies (2003)

by Harry Turtledove

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I was a little disappointing with this book. First of all, it took me ages. I kept picking it up and putting it down. That's never a good sign. Parts were great, others just dragged and dragged. I realize the point of all the card games, but I don't think that I needed to have a rundown on the rules, or who was pulling what card. It was way too much detail.

The alternate world Turtledove set up was very good. In fact, I wouldn't have minded having more of that. I, however, was rather disappointed with the ending. It had a very unfinished feeling about it. But, I was happy to have finished the book. I was sick to death of having it stare at me from my bedside table! ( )
  sscarllet | Dec 15, 2015 |
In the presence of mine enemies has a great concept: Jews are hiding in the midst of the Third Reich and trying to survive after the Axis victory in the WW II. It depicts the everyday life under the shadow of the Germanic Empire that is a not too subtle allusion to the Soviet Union in the last years. I liked it in the beginning, but quite soon became dull and so badly executed - because of the hammered repetitions - that I didn't finish it. The worse parts were the the long descriptions of bridge playing that for me - I don't play bridge nor know the rules of this game - were like a chore. ( )
  Luisali | Nov 17, 2012 |
Germany won the Second World War and twenty years later a Third. In 2009, the US, like most of Europe, is a vassal state, paying reparations to avoid the panzers rolling out from their bases in US cities. The British Union of Fascists holds sway in a Britain also in thrall to Germany.

In Berlin, the Gimpel family lets its eldest daughter into a secret. They are Jews, and must keep their origins hidden, speaking of it only to those in their immediate circle. Meanwhile the old Führer, a character whose real world model is only thinly disguised by the name Kurt Haldweim, has died and the new one, Heinz Buckliger, starts to loosen the strings of dictatorship. This strand of the plot hinges on textual differences between the first and subsequent editions of Mein Kampf, a subject on which I have to take Turtledove on trust.

Parallels with our world are one of the delights of altered histories. Nice touches here are a stage production featuring the baddies Churchill and Stalin which is so awful that it’s a smash hit and a delegation from the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia, asking for autonomy for the region, being led by a grey-haired Czech playwright.

(Slight spoiler alert:-

The thousand year Reich (had it survived World War II) would no doubt have collapsed under its internal contradictions at some point long before a millennium had passed but perhaps not quite so quickly and easily as portrayed here. The parallel with the Soviet Union of our own world which Turtledove implicitly outlines by having the Gauleiter of Berlin face down SS tanks in front of his residence does not really hold. In the world of the novel there was no Cold War to sap and counter its ideology – Japan is not presented as too great a rival to Germany – and hence any decay would likely have been much slower.)

This may be the story Turtledove always wanted to tell – Jewishness has unsurprisingly featured prominently in his altered worlds and this is the ultimate scenario to deploy in order to explore it. I’m afraid his writing does not do this particular theme justice, though. It has his usual multiple viewpoints, but all are Jewish here. Other familiar traits are too prevalent; the tendency to reiterate characters’ thoughts or peccadilloes, to labour a point, and here he doesn’t so much foreshadow future events as telegraph them. Plus he is too kind to his viewpoint characters and the book’s Nazis are cardboard – all the really evil deeds are in the novel’s past – which is a shame because this could have been a powerful indictment of man’s inhumanity to man.

The idea for In The Presence Of Mine Enemies worked much better at the short story length in which it first appeared in 1992. ( )
  jackdeighton | Dec 28, 2011 |
This is probably my favourite Turtledove novel of the ones I have so far read. The setting is Berlin in a Third Reich that in 2010 covers much of the Eurasian landmass and the United States. The main characters are some of the very few surviving Jews who have lasted so long only by totally concealing their identities, not only from the authorities but also from their own neighbours and even from dear friends and other family members. The novel creates a very stark and believable atmosphere of repression and the horror of Jews knowing that even close friends would wish them dead if they knew of their racial identity.

The course of the plot follows attempts at limited reform within the Nazi system following the coming to power of Heinz Buckliger as Fuhrer, the first of the new generation born after the original Nazi seizure of power and the Second World War. The parallel here is clearly with Mikhail Gorbachev in the Soviet Union with his perestroika and glasnost, attempts to democratise the system from within. Rolf Stolle, the Gauleiter of Berlin in this novel, is clearly the Boris Yeltsin of this world, pushing the leader on to reform faster and more deeply, but with his own character flaws (Yeltsin was also originally appointed the first secretary of the Moscow Communist Party for the early period of Gorbachev's rule, so occupies a very similar hierarchical position as Stolle). I wasn't surprised when Buckliger was overthrown in a coup while on holiday and returned after the coup was crushed, having lost moral authority to Stolle, mirroring the Soviet events of August 1991.

As with other Turtledove novels, while a good writer, he does hammer small character points repeatedly, to the point of minor irritation. While understandable in the context of Jews constantly fearing discovery and exposure, it is particularly annoying in the case of the doctor whose inability to use a coffeemaker is hammered home in every scene in his surgery in which he appears. ( )
  john257hopper | Aug 29, 2011 |
Many people consider Harry Turtledove to be the master of alternate history. This book proves that he is just that. Any author can write an alternate history; all you need to do is pick a point in time and imagine what differences would have happened had an event occurred differently. The problem is that very few authors present a world that feels plausible, let alone probable. Harry Turtledove's worlds feel absolutely authentic; they feel "right" (or in this case, horribly, terribly "wrong"). The setup is simple: Nazi Germany won World War II. Jump forward to 2009 and the family life of Heinrich Gimpel, a Nazi bureaucrat. In the opening chapter, Gimpel goes about his daily work (he's in charge of overseeing tributes from a defeated America), rides home on the bus with his best friend, and has a nice meal with his family and some friends and relatives. But at the end of dinner, we discover the genius of Turtledove's vision as Gimpel and family reveal to their 10-year old daughter (after the younger daughters have gone to sleep) that she is a Jew, to which she responds that she can't be. This book is not an action thriller and if you read it hoping to see a small band of Jews overthrow the Nazi regime you will be disappointed. But the book does present a terrifying picture of what life could have been like. I don't know if this book would be as powerful to a Gentile. To me, the emotional bond that I felt with the characters was probably greater than any character that I can recall from recent (or even longer) memory. Very highly recommended; just be patient and let the story develop at Turtledove's pace. ( )
1 vote MSWallack | Jan 27, 2008 |
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To Ernest Turtledove, Herman Appelman, Bernard Appelman, Harry L. Turtledove, David R. Friesner, and Ralph Shwartz, all of whom, along with so many others, helped ensure that this is alternate history.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0451459598, Mass Market Paperback)

In the twenty-first century, Germany's Third Reich continues to thrive after its victory in World War II-keeping most of Europe and North America under its heel. But within the heart of the Nazi regime, a secret lives. Under a perfect Aryan facade, Jews survive-living their lives, raising their families, and fearing discovery...

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:12:07 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

"Heinrich Gimpel is a respected officer with the Oberkommando Wehrmachts office in Berlin. His wife is a common hausfrau, raising his three precious daughters the same way he was raised - to be loyal, unquestioning citizens of the Third Reich, obedient to the will of the Fuhrer." "But Heinrich Gimpel has a secret. He is not, in fact, a member of the Master Race. He has been living a lie to protect his true identity as a Jew - and he's not alone. Throughout Berlin, Jews survive in secrecy... doing their jobs, caring for their families, maintaining the facade of perfect Aryans, and praying they will not be discovered." "But a change is coming. And soon they will be forced to choose between safety and freedom."--BOOK JACKET.… (more)

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