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The Iron Dream by Norman Spinrad
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The Iron Dream (1972)

by Norman Spinrad

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4622122,468 (3.46)15
  1. 00
    After the Downfall by Harry Turtledove (fugitive)
    fugitive: Nazi!!! On a unicorn!!! I'm not kidding.
  2. 00
    Fatherland by Robert Harris (bertilak)
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» See also 15 mentions

English (16)  French (3)  Italian (1)  Finnish (1)  All languages (21)
Showing 1-5 of 16 (next | show all)
Spinrad is an author I have mixed feelings about. To the good, he's a genuinely-talented writer and world-builder. Unfortunately, he too often doesn't trust his readers' ability to get the point and feels the need to repeatedly jab his literary elbow into your ribs and say "Get it? Get it?"

In this case, his lack of subtlety works to his great advantage, and given the reports that readers still missed the point, it's necessary.

Basically, the conceit of the story is that the book represents Hitler's Hugo Award-winning sci-fi masterwork. In the world that led to the book, Hitler emigrated from Germany after the First World War and set up shop in New York as a fiction writer. Soviet Russia went on to swallow Eurasia and by the end of the 1950s only Japan and America are independent.

In the meantime, Hitler mastered English (more or less) and became a very popular science-fiction writer. His magnum opus, "Lord of the Swastika," was published posthumously, and inspired a Nazi-like legion of fans to follow the book rabidly, right down to forming clubs which follow the book's ethos ("Say what you will about the tenets of National Socialism, Dude...")

Spinrad is trying to do three things: (1) zing Hitler's weirdness, (2) criticize use of fascist imagery, and (3) most imporantly to him, zing the Freudian/fascist undercurrents in sci-fi/fantasy. It works, for the most part, with the reader finding himself (however loathingly) rooting for Hitler's protagonist, who wants to free a post-nuclear True Humanity from the mutants and Dominators. Spinrad fires broadside after broadside, skewing hypermasculinism, fetishism, the lack of female characters, military gear worship and even homoeroticism. More often than not, he hits, even as he becomes painfully repetitive and exaggerates past the point of no return, especially for readers who have embraced the genres since the 70s.

I think it's safe to say modern sci-fi and fantasy have broadened considerably from their levels of development in the early 70s, and the pathologies he perceived then aren't as prevalent. Still, it's worthwhile and a handy corrective. ( )
  Dale.Price | Feb 11, 2013 |
The Iron Dream has to be one of the most difficult books to review. The basic premise (that Adolf Hitler moved to the US and became a pulp sci-fi writer) is patently absurd, yet so weird and savvy, it’s truly brilliant. Of course, the meta-book-within-a-book, Lord of the Swastika by Hitler, is wretched (even as a clear tongue-and-cheek parody), but again, that was Spinrad’s entire point. And the final chapter of faux-analysis summed everything up in one neat and tidy package that was beyond ingenious. His psychological analysis concerning fascist tendencies within Campbell’s heroic journey was spot on. Clearly, it was a dig at the previous generation of sci-fi writers, such as Heinlein, who popularized alpha-male adventure stories with strong authoritarian and militaristic themes. The Iron Dream is the perfect New Wave novel, an experimental flipping of the entire genre on its head. ( )
  DrakeVaughn | Dec 11, 2012 |
My reactions to reading this book in 1991. Some spoilers follow.

This novel took awhile to get into because it comes across exactly as advertised: a novel by Adolf Hitler. It took me awhile to warm up to it, to read it in the gulps necessary, but, towards the end, I enjoyed it a lot.

This is sf as Hitler would write it right down to a wishful plot that partially mirrors history -- here Feric Jagger justifies the cynical killing of Sons of the Swastika leader Stag Stopa as Hitler justified killing Ernst Rohm and the SA who performed a similar function in history. Here author Hitler treats us to constant references to urinating, defecating mutants; a novel where “fanaticism” is a complimentary term; where military manuevers are improbably conducted like a parade or opera; where there are constant, obsessive references to the colors of red, white, and black and swastikas (even in floor tiles); and genocide and forced sterilization are portrayed as merciful acts. But most pervasive, most hilarious is the constant, not-so-hidden sexual imagery from the akwardly described motorcycles (Hitler goes on at great length in describing a machine whose appearance is presumbably known to the reader) with their throbbing engines slung between the riders legs, to the super-phallus of the Steel Commander, to the barely disguised homoeroticism between Feric Jagger and Best, to the descriptions of the Helder army penetrating and pushing aside the Zind forces to the numerous towers and rockets, to the final scene of Jagger clones and Jagger seed rising to the stars on a rocket as a barely disguised orgasm.

The prose rises to a shriek like one of Hitler’s speeches. The afterword is hilarious in revealing not only a literary critic’s naivete in the book’s alternate world (he thinks it improbable a Jagger leader could take over a nation with parades and phallic symbols) but Spinrad’s satirical intentions. The afterword discusses the book's plot holes (including an improbably rapid technological progress during the war), its sexual symbolism, and the underlying pathology -- a compelling pathology -- of its author. It’s a fun book, but I don’t think Spinrad ultimately convinces us of his points. Nazi symbols are compelling, but I don’t think they’re sexual images. Nor do I think Spinrad makes good his contention of a connection between the fascist mindset and the plots of some power-trip sf pulp stories. I have read Spinrad say elsewhere that this book (and this isn’t really brought out in the Afterword) is a satire on the hero-discovers-innate-magic-powers-and-saves-world plot of so much fantasy. Jagger discovers (in a strange twist on Arthuriana when he wields his Steel Commander) his racial purity and saves the day and will populate new worlds with his seed. It’s the logical, solipistic, egomaniacal extension of that plot idea.

This is a unique book in that I know of no other alternate history that gives us a complete work of art from an alternate world, much less a full novel by an alternate version of an historical figure. ( )
  RandyStafford | Dec 1, 2012 |
Stupid concept -- and it's all downhill from there. ( )
  HarryMacDonald | Nov 15, 2012 |
It is a very long joke novel. Not to be taken seriously. ( )
  Mike3qblue | Oct 9, 2012 |
Showing 1-5 of 16 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (8 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Norman Spinradprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Habberfield, BobCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Morill, RowenaCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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This book is dedicated to Brian Kirby. Who doesn't let you look away.
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With a great groaning of tired metal and a hiss of escaping steam, the roadsteamer from Gormond came to a halt in the grimy yard of the Pormi depot, a mere three hours late; quite a respectable performance by Borgravian standards.
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