Written by nuclear expert James Kunetka, Parting Shot promised a more grounded, realistic look at the infamous “The Germans have a nuclear bomb” World War II alternate history. When I saw the Sea Lion Press review, I knew I had to get it. So I did.
It’s indeed the most plausible “WWII German nukes” AH out there. In fact, it’s arguably too much so. This is a rare example of the kind of book that’s possibly too realistic for its own good. The Germans go with a gun-type device, because that’s the easiest to build. Although that arguably just shifts the bottleneck from the physics package itself to uranium enrichment-it’s why I’m certain that’s the reason the Iraqis went with a more complex but less U235-hungry implosion design. But then again, having a cheap thriller drag you into plausibility arguments isn’t the best itself.
And make no mistake-the final fight leaves no doubt that this is intended as a thriller. Only the contrivances of that (and other scenes) mixed with the intent to be more realistic leads to an awkward stumble. The very nature of a program that wasn’t even close becoming unrealistically successful is jarring in and of itself. And even the bomb proper didn’t really work for me, being a cheap thriller cliche just short of “HITLER LIVED!”
Finally, the structure of the book works against it being a good thriller. Having stuff told in the past tense and jumping between past and (then) present takes away a lot of the drama. This is still an ambitious book, but it kind of falls apart from that very quality. If it’s too realistic for its own good, it’s also too scattered.