Friday, September 07, 2007

Guest Book Review: The Iron Dream

We have a guest review today! Salieri!

The Iron Dream by Norman Spinrad

Norman Spinrad's The Iron Dream is essentially a reprint of
Adolf Hitler's 1954 Hugo-winning science fiction novel Lord of the
with an appendix of scholarly commentary about the work.

The story is fairly straightforward. A nuclear war destroyed most of
civilization several thousand years ago, and much of the earth remains
an irradiated, mutated wasteland. Humanity has been reduced to several
feeble-minded subspecies, controlled by the evil Dominators, who use
their psychic powers to enslave mutants from their headquarters in the
eastern land of Zind. The last hope for the purity of the human
bloodline is the High Republic of Heldon. But Heldon was humiliated in
a recent war and struggles to stay afloat, with Dominators sneaking in
to establish control.

Feric Jaggar, a tall, muscular blond of pure human stock, grew up in
exile. Upon arriving in Heldon for the first time, he sees the lurking
threat of mutation and Domination. He is one of the few whose will is
strong enough to triumph against the mind-control of the Dominators.
Jaggar organizes a rag-tag group of bandits into a private army - the
Knights of the Swastika - and takes control of Heldon. (The swastika is
a kind of bent cross logo that was the emblem of ancient Heldon.) He
leads the people of Heldon in a great struggle to free humanity from
eternal slavery.

This book plays mostly to Hitler's talents as a writer. His greatest
strength was his ability to depict vivid moments of conflict. Jaggar's
speeches at the Sons of the Swastika's torchlit rallies and the
frequent battles between the forces of humanity and the forces of evil
are described in memorable detail. I imagine that events like this
would be captivating in real life, though I'm not sure if the
impassioned rhetoric of Jaggar would really whip up such frenzied
public support as it did in the book.

On the other hand, you can really tell that this was a book that got
away from its author. Hitler was dying of venereal disease as he wrote
the book, and the pacing becomes frantic. 250 pages just isn't enough
room for Hitler to tell the story he wanted to tell: Jaggar's return
from exile, his rise to power in Heldon, his campaign against the
Dominators and mutants within the state, his final solution to the
mutant problem, and the epic showdown with Zind. Indeed, the entire
war against the enormous nation of Zind and its vast slave army boils
down to two or three battles. Hitler seemed to think that motorized
warfare would result in quick, decisive wars, but I would think that a
real-life Zind army would just retreat and count on the Heldons to run
out of supplies, then take advantage of Zind's seemingly endless
manpower and counterattack. Furthermore, technology seems to develop
overnight. As the book begins, Jaggar rides into Heldon in a
steam-powered vehicle, but it isn't long before the men of Heldon are
zooming around in jet-powered bombers.

One more thing to note: Hitler had a reputation as a ladies' man, and
was said to be quite the player at sci-fi conventions. Nevertheless,
this book is really, really gay. Hitler seems to have had some sort of
military fetish. He describes the shiny black leather uniforms of his
Swastika Squadron in loving detail, and Jaggar's preferred weapon is a
swastika-topped club. I can't be the only one who wondered about
Jaggar's real relationship with his handsome young "personal
assistant," Ludolf Best.

All in all, Hitler's ambition outstripped his abilities. I wouldn't
call Lord of the Swastika a classic by any means. Still, it has
moments of grandeur, and it's still an enjoyable piece of pulp
literature. Hitler's story can be very appealing if you turn off your
brain and let your emotions - or, as Hitler would put it, your will -
carry you away.

Salieri's Grade: C+


Shannon said...

I know that this will sound stupid coming from someone who reads romance novels, but...why the hell would you waste your time reading something like this? If I start reading what I know will turn out to be a C+ book, I don't even finish it; life is too short.

Zachary said...

You must not know Salieri. He lives for C+ books and movies.