Book Reviews

Book Review: Final Impact by John Birmingham – Left Me Wanting a Whole Lot More

World War II is not the same. It seems that a multi-national fleet from 2021 accidentally somehow transported themselves back in time to the period just as hostilities were getting into full swing in 1942. Not only does the technology from the future have an impact on the time, but the people do as well. They are quite different than the people of that era, including their acceptance of women and minorities in strategic positions in the military.

The bulk of the technology has ended up in the hands of the Allies. You would think that would make victory a cakewalk for them, but that’s just not so. One ship fell into the hands of the Germans and Italians, while the Soviets have their own secret program going with a ship from the future they have managed to keep a secret.

Even with all this technology, the outcome of the war hinges on who manages to develop atomic bombs first. Complicating that is the fact that Stalin now knows what will become of the Soviet Union in the future unless he does more to shore up their strongholds. They aren’t content with their place in history having their empire deteriorate until the 1980’s when it all falls to capitalism. Stalin is determined not to repeat the same mistakes and that’s been set up throughout the previous two books to reach a payoff here.

Historical figures such as Franklin Roosevelt, Admiral Spruance, Patton, MacArthur, Eisenhower, Stalin, Hitler, Himmler, Yamamoto, Churchill, and Lord Halifax join with some terrific fictional characters to create a great story. I felt the character were well fleshed-out in the first book, Weapons of Choice. By this time they seem quite real and vibrant.

The main problem I had with Final Impact is how much time has elapsed since the end of the second book and where this one picks up. I had to go back and re-read the end of Designated Targets because I thought I had forgotten things that had happened in that book. That was not the case, and they were covered usually in flashback form throughout Final Impact.

The other problem is that I really don’t want the series to end. Birmingham has created a vibrant and interesting universe and I would like to read more about how the world plays out the way things line up at the end of Final Impact.

I really liked the pace of the book. It revealed things at a nice pace and didn’t have the feeling that some of the cryptic nuances were contrived for plot points. When Birmingham writes that an event was planned out ahead of time “just in case”, it feels that way because of the way he’s crafted the characters until this point.

I usually don’t like military novels that get too bogged down in technical details, but Birmingham has done a terrific job here with the details of the weaponry, both the ultra-modern taken from the 21st century as well as the new weaponry developed in the World War II era. His style seems a lot like Tom Clancy’s but I like it better for some reason. Whether it’s because the descriptions are more fictional and have almost a science-fiction edge to them or if it’s his style I like better.

I wouldn’t recommend starting the series here since so much of the build-up to these events is missing. Birmingham does re-cap a lot, but I could easily see anyone who hasn’t read the first two novels not getting a lot of the nuances of what’s gone on before. It’s worth it to start from the beginning, believe me.

Although it seems that in Final Impact Birmingham is attempting to wrap-up the many storylines he previously created, I really felt like there were too many possibilities to build on what’s been created and more issues to see played out. In many ways there are as many questions about what would happen after Final Impact as there were before.



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