Strike Force Red
C. T. Glatte’s Strike Force Red is an alien World War II. The book might invite comparisons to Harry Turtledove’s Worldwar series, but is actually much different.
Aliens, wishing to take over the world to repair their damaged spaceship, land, kill Hitler, make Stalin into their pawn, and then proceed to form a League of Evil with everyone from Mao to Vorster on their side before sending a Soviet army to invade Alaska. Opposing them are, of course, the Americans with anachronistic P-51s (with even more anachronistic female pilots) and Sherman tanks.
So, I’ll get this out of the way. Historical war novels are generally not my thing. Especially not World War II novels. I’m just weird in how I judge them, and a lot of my feelings on the genre can be boiled down to “if I want to read about a historical conflict, I’ll read a history book”. So I’d be lying if I said this bias wasn’t slanting my review.
That being said, this book has a lot of wasted potential. High on the list are the aliens themselves. They’re mustache twirling puppy kickers who fail to be anything but the sort of “pop-up antagonists” usually reserved for spacesuit commandos. They’re not complex or developed or deep. Improving them would be easy as sincerely believing their rule to be ideal for humanity’s improvement (like XCOM’s Ethereals) or being able to be better than Stalin and thus inspire genuine loyalty among their subjects would make them more interesting. Or both-they clean up and improve in authoritarian and/or war-torn areas, earn the loyalty of the populace, and then find that wealthier, freer countries don’t take as kindly to them.
Barring that, they could at least be entertaining space opera megalomaniacs. They’re not. The aliens come across as being like washed-up actors who are desperate for a paycheck, so they put on the rubber alien suit and phone in their lines for the B-movie they hate but do anyway for the money.
But even higher is the technology, which seems very unimaginative. I don’t expect a deep examination of industrial capacity in the 1930s, but going straight to P-51s and Shermans in 1940 because those are the most famous is both inaccurate and dull. Likewise for T-34s and “MiGs”. The alien technology is rarely exploited and, in practice, amounts to just a way to get a Soviet army over to Alaska. It’s like a Fuldapocalyptic story where in 198X, a zombie sorceress full of magic explicitly appears and starts World War III-and all she does is torture animals for fun and move a motor rifle brigade to Iceland.
This book should have featured multi-turret tanks with deathrays against American Heroes in pulp science contraptions. Instead it’s just a rote war drama with all of the potential it had in its plot left unexploited.