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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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5032420,248 (3.47)25
  1. 00
    Elric of Melniboné by Michael Moorcock (artturnerjr)
    artturnerjr: Spinrad takes the deliberately exaggerated phallic symbolism of the Elric stories to extremes that Moorcock never dreamed of.
  2. 00
    The Mirage by Matt Ruff (slickdpdx)
  3. 00
    After the Downfall by Harry Turtledove (fugitive)
    fugitive: Nazi!!! On a unicorn!!! I'm not kidding.
  4. 00
    Fatherland by Robert Harris (bertilak)
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» See also 25 mentions

English (19)  French (3)  Italian (1)  Finnish (1)  All languages (24)
Showing 1-5 of 19 (next | show all)
A whole lot of fun and very stimulating. ( )
  ndpmcIntosh | Mar 21, 2016 |
A Bit Overlong, But Audacious And Challenging

Is there such a thing as a novelist doing too good of a job of what they set out to do? That's the question (one of many) that The Iron Dream presents.

Allow me to explain. Norman Spinrad is playing around with alternate timelines here. In the timeline this book is written in, Adolf Hitler does not lead Nazi Germany in starting World War II, but instead, in 1919, emigrates to the USA, ends up becoming an illustrator for SF magazines (the historically-minded among you will recall that Hitler was an artist before he got involved in politics), and then (you guessed it) becomes a science fiction writer. The Iron Dream, then, is actually a re-titled version of Lord of the Swastika, the novel that, in this timeline, would go on to win a posthumous Hugo Award for Hitler in 1955.

The raison d'être of this novel (from what I can gather from my research on the Interwebs) is that Spinrad looked at a lot of what had been written in the science fiction and fantasy genres (as well as, I take it, our collective legends going back at least as far as the Greco-Roman and Norse myths) and found it to be essentially fascist in nature. He felt the best way to drive this point home was to compose a fiction SF novel authored by der Führer himself, Adolf Hitler.

Does it work? Well, as you might guess, there are some inherent problems here. First of all, for Spinrad to be true to the novel's conceit, the novel can't be any good; in fact, it has to be terrible (it's the extended power fantasy of a homicidal white supremacist - how could it be anything but terrible?). Factor in what's going on in American politics right now and you have a novel that's pretty darn close to impossible to read. (But... it has to be!)

Secondly, as Ursula K. Le Guin pointed out in her excellent review of the novel (Google it), the story doesn't need to be as long as it is to work. That is, Spinrad could have gotten the thesis of the novel across in a short story or a novella - it didn't have to be a novel-length work. (Perhaps Spinrad didn't feel the story would have the same kind of psychological impact on the reader if it was shorter. I am now curious to see if he has spoken to this notion at any time.)

So... how do you rate something like this? Well, if I was rating the novel based strictly on the audacity of its concept and the way in which it challenges the sensitive reader, I would give it five stars, easily. But a novel, ultimately, is something that has to be read, and, one would hope, be read without the reader cringing the entire time he or she is reading it (which, unless you are a proponent of authoritarian white supremacy yourself, is what you're gonna do, I guarantee it). So, four stars for this one, with a tip of the hat to Spinrad for having (if I may use a manly adjective that this novel's protagonist would no doubt approve of) the cojones to make the attempt. ( )
1 vote artturnerjr | Mar 17, 2016 |
Ӕ
  ngunity | Nov 23, 2014 |
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. ( )
2 vote Dale.Price | Feb 11, 2013 |
Showing 1-5 of 19 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (7 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Norman Spinradprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Brumm, WalterTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Festino, GiuseppeIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Habberfield, BobCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Herholz, UlfCover 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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