Book Reviews

Book Review – Stalin’s Hammer: Cairo by John Birmingham – Prince Harry, Action Hero

This is the second novella continuing the story from author John Birmingham’s Axis of Time series where a multinational task force trying to weed out terrorists in the South Pacific Ocean in the 21st century is transported back in time to – literally – end up in the middle of the Battle of Midway. This series of novellas takes place about ten years after they arrived back in that time, and it’s now the 1950s. Things are different with the reverse engineering going on of the future technology, but much of the technology is still lacking.

In the previous novella, Stalin’s Hammer: Rome, readers were introduced to Prince Harry as a central figure. He was part of that multinational task force and sent back in time with the rest, although he wasn’t at the center of the first three books. This series, though, is all about him. Since he was eliminated from any possibility of royal succession due to a specific act passed by Parliament, he finds himself recruited by MI-6. He can be the jet-setter going to any number of places where he’s needed and no one will question it, and at the same time make contact with people and get them to trust him.

He’s sent to Cairo with his girlfriend, former embedded reporter Julia Duffy, to make contact with a German rocket scientist he helped extract at the end of World War II. The professor has dedicated his life to peace and is at a peace conference in Cairo. However, he is acting strangely and MI-6 is worried his knowledge will fall into Soviet hands.

The most valuable thing Stalin gained from the future was knowledge. He’s not about to let what happened to the Soviet Union in our timeline happen again. At the end of World War II, he made a big land grab in southeast Europe and is now working on a weapon that might ensure Soviet domination. MI-6 and other organizations know something is up, but aren’t sure just what it is.

I found Stalin’s Hammer: Cairo to be a great thriller. It’s got plenty of action and intrigue with Prince Harry and Julia at the center of it. There are other “uptimers” as these people from the future are called involved in the action and intrigue as well. Some we met in previous books, and some are new characters. Admiral Kolhammer is now the Vice President of the United States and several others are in strategic positions to try to steer the future to what they want. There are several people in this current time who have managed to fare quite well in this new world. One, in particular, is Charlotte, an orphan of the war in the Pacific who was adopted by one of the uptimers and learned their ways. She’s part of a covert freelance team headed by one of Harry’s buddies.

The descriptions of the weaponry go right over my head for the most part, but fans of books with these types of descriptions will love them. The characters are great and have good depth to them. The characters who have been seen before in the series are great and the new ones are also great. Even though it’s a relatively short book, it does a lot in a little space. The political situation in Egypt is ripe for exploitation from within and that sense is conveyed without extraneous material.

I wouldn’t jump into this series unless you’ve read the first three novels, but Stalin’s Hammer: Cairo continues the story quite well and adds in great intrigue and action. For readers who like alternate history, I can’t recommend Burmingham’s work enough.

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