May 29, 2020

Review Rising Sun by Robert Conroy.

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History is filled with “What Ifs”. What if Einstein had never immigrated to the US? What if Lincoln had never gone to Ford’s Theatre? While many decisions in history might have been inconsequential, others may have radically altered the course of history and our role in it today.

Of course, the concept of “alternative history fiction” has led to a whole cottage industry of sub-sub genre science fiction. You can find tales where the South won the Civil War, the Reich got its 1,000 year reign and the Romans never did succumb to the barbarian hordes. While some may argue (and heck, it’s just plain interesting/frightening to imagine) that such events hinged on a singular outcome, one could also counter that the overall tide of history was inevitable.

One such historical “What If?” is posed by this week’s review, Rising Sun by Robert Conroy out from Baen Books. Rising Sun takes a look at the war in the Pacific and wonders what might have happened if the United States had lost the Battle of Midway. This was a decisive turning point in the Pacific Theatre; with the Japanese carrier fleet smashed, the U.S. gained the upper hand and would forever be on the offensive for the remainder of the war. The U.S. was indeed lucky that day as the author points out; in Rising Sun, the U.S. carrier fleet doesn’t slip past the Japanese submarine patrols so easily. The U.S. was also very lucky that none of its carriers were caught on December 7th 1941 in the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. Rising Sun is more of an “alternative historical fiction” rather than an out right alt-history Sci-Fi; no Victorian automatons or airships resulting from Babbage devices or Tesla’s vision brought to life here. But the story, while a hypothetical one, builds on some very real technologies and tactics of the day. The U.S. loss at Midway brings the Japanese fleet right up to the United States’ doorstep, in a show-down that spans from the Arctic Circle to the Panama Canal. The author does draw up a great point that Japan’s greatest chances at winning the war was to quickly strike and cripple the U.S.’s fledgling Navy before full economic might could be brought to bear. Once our military-industrial machine was running at full steam, it was all over.

Rising Sun traces the lives of several characters through the building Japanese onslaught across the Pacific Rim. Another real factor that is portrayed in the book that played into the ultimate downfall of the Japanese was their pride; their military branches had a rivalry the likes of which no Army & Navy game has ever seen.

Rising Sun is a great tale for history buffs and those just curious of what might’ve been. We’d also recommend searching out the flicks The Battle of Midway and 30 Seconds Over Tokyo about the daring Doolittle raid, which are some of the best World War II movies ever made… in an alternate timeline, we could add the “Battle of Baja” to the list of classic war flicks as well!


  1. [...] fiction covering the Pacific theatre of World War II that we reviewed earlier this year entitled Rising Sun. in that work, Japan deals the United States Navy a crippling blow at the Battle of Midway, [...]

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