V2 by Robert Harris

V2 Cover

Publisher: Hutchinson (Ebook – 15 September 2020)

Series: Standalone

Length: 312 pages

My Rating: 4.25 out of 5 stars

One of the most talented historical fiction authors in the game, Robert Harris, dives deep into the history of the infamous Nazi V2 rocket program in his latest novel, V2.

Harris is an impressive and well-regarded novelist who has been writing fiction for nearly 30 years.  A former journalist, Harris’s initial books were a series of non-fiction novels in the 1980’s on various subjects, including a book that is considered to be the definitive account of the investigation into The Hitler Diaries scandal which later inspired a drama-documentary miniseries.  His first fiction novel was the 1992 release, Fatherland, an alternate history novel that depicted Germany wining World War II.  He has since gone on to write a number of other fascinating novels, most of which have a historical edge to them, including Pompeii, The Ghost (later adapted into the film The Ghost Writer), The Fear Index and Munich.  Harris is one of those authors I have been meaning to read more of, but so far I have only checked out his 2013 release, An Officer and a Spy, which featured a fascinating account of the Alfred Dreyfus affair in 19th century France, and which was an outstanding piece of historical fiction.  I also currently have his 2019 release, The Second Sleep, on my bookshelf and it was one of the novels I most regret not reading last year.  As a result, I was rather interested when I got a copy of V2, which sounded like quite a fun and intriguing historical read.

In November 1944, while the Allies advance on Berlin, the Nazis are desperate to avoid defeat at all cost.  Placing his hopes in new technology, Hitler funnels vast resources into his V2 rocket program, the most sophisticated weapon on the planet.  The V2s are powerful ballistic missiles capable of delivering an explosive warhead deep into enemy territory at immense speeds.  Hitler has ordered the production of 10,000 rockets and from an isolated forest in occupied Holland, the Germans launch them towards London, causing immense damage.

Rudi Graf is a German scientist who has long dreamt of sending rockets to the moon, and who now regrets his role in the creation of the V2.  Stationed at the V2 launch site, Graf desperately tries to hang onto his humanity as he watches his dream cause only destruction and death.  At the same time, in London, Kay Caton-Wash, an officer in the WAAF, is experiencing the full horror of the V2 rockets as she barely survives one of their strikes.  Over the course of five days, these two strangers are about to be connected by their circumstances.  As Graf is forced to launch even more of his rockets at London, Kay becomes involved with a secret mission to locate and destroy the V2 launch sites in Holland.  Travelling to Belgium, armed with only a slide rule and some equations, Kay works to end the V2 menace once and for all.  However, danger and duplicity are around every corner, and both Graf and Kay soon begin to realise that they cannot trust anyone.  As both rush towards their destinies, their actions will have unintended consequences on the over, changing the course of history forever.

V2 was a clever and compelling novel from Harris, who did a wonderful job wrapping an intriguing, character-driven story around one of the most remarkable military programs of World War II.  Like the majority of Harris’s novels, V2 is a standalone book that can be easily enjoyed by anyone in the mood for informative historical tale or war story that shows the horrors of war and the terrible ways that a person’s dreams can be twisted for evil purposes.

Harris has come up with a captivating narrative for this book.  The focus of V2 is split between two fictional point-of-view characters, Kay and Graf, and follows their respective experiences over a period of five days, with several flashback scenes thrown in for context.  This proved to be a rather intriguing read, and I liked how the author tied a mostly fictional story around some fascinating historical events, such as the creation and implementation of the V2 rockets.  Both of the two separate storylines are quite intriguing and both go in some exciting directions, including Kay getting involved in a secret military operation while Graf tries to keep his sanity as he navigates the politics, treachery and sadism of his Nazi controllers.  However, the real appeal of this narrative is the way in which the two separate story arcs intersect throughout the novel.  For example, the novel starts with Graff witnessing and assisting the launch of a V2 rocket, which then lands and changes Kay’s life.  As the story proceeds, the various actions and reactions of these two point-of-view characters impacts the events occurring around the other character, resulting in danger and tragedy in equal measures.  While I really liked the fascinating individual narratives and the cool way in which the storylines overlapped, I did think that the main story ended rather suddenly and lacked a substantial or satisfying conclusion.  This narrative desperately needed some big, exciting hook at the end to really tie everything together, even if it was historically inaccurate.  Still, V2’s story was really good and easy to get into, and I had a fantastic time reading it.

In order to tell this fascinating tale, Harris utilises two great fictional characters, Kay and Graf, through whose eyes we see the events unfold.  Both of these characters are rather interesting and I quite enjoyed both their individual character arcs.  However, of the two, I definitely found Graf to be the more compelling character.  This is because Graf is a particularly tortured individual, a brilliant scientist who is forced to work for the Nazis to bomb England.  There are some excellent scenes throughout this book that show Graf agonising over his actions working for the Nazis, who have perverted his childhood dream of creating spacefaring rockets into weapons of mass destruction.  Harris also spends much more time exploring Graf’s past, investing in a series of flashbacks that show how Graf became obsessed with rocketry, how he became involved with the V2 project and some of the tragedies that working with the Nazis have brought.  Add in a very captivating storyline that shows Graf starting to rebel against the actions of his Nazi handlers and attempting to find a small measure of redemption out in the wilds of Holland and you have a very impressive and enjoyable character arc that does rather outshine the storyline Harris sets up for Kay.  That being said, Kay is still an interesting focus character in V2, and I did enjoy her arc of trying to find and destroy the V2 launch sites by travelling to Belgium with several other members of the WAAF to work out the trajectories of the rocket flights.  It was also really cool to see this portrayal of a WAAF, a female air force officer, throughout the book, especially one deployed outside of England, and I found it interesting to examine the varied roles that they played throughout the war.  Overall, these two characters do an outstanding job telling this story, and I had a great time seeing how their individual arcs unfolded.

The real highlight of this novel has to be the author’s incredible and captivating portrayal of the infamous V2 rocket program.  Harris has clearly done his research on the subject as he does an amazing job examining all the key aspects of the program and bringing them to life.  This includes a detailed examination of the history of the project, the technical aspects of the rockets and various examinations of how they fly and what they can do.  Harris makes good use of the various flashback sequences in Graf’s chapters to examine the full fascinating history of the project, including the origins of the rockets, identifying who the key architects of the project were and how the project came to the attention of the Nazis.  This includes some compelling depictions of several major historical figures associated with the V2s, such as the project’s leader and main creative driver, Wernher von Braun, as well as several key Nazi characters who had a hand in the project in some way or another.  The author also provides the reader with an unfiltered depiction of the devastating effect that these rockets had on the inhabitants of London when they hit and he actually features several real, historical rocket strikes that occurred during the timeline of the novel, including the most devastating attack that hit London.  The depictions of the horror and the carnage that the rockets caused were really striking, especially as Harris tries to capture the psychological impact that these unstoppable and ultra-fast rockets had on the populace.  I really loved learning more about the V2 rockets and it was easily the most fascinating and captivating part of the entire book.  I especially appreciated the way in which Harris used his dual character perspectives to examine the project from the point of view of the Germans and the Allies, and it was great to see the clash of understandings and opinions about the rockets.  It was also really fascinating to learn more about the Allies’ covert attempts to identify and demolish the V2 launch sites, and this was a great addition to the novel.  All of these historical aspects are immensely enjoyable and fascinating and they add a heck of a lot to the story.

V2 by Robert Harris is a particularly clever and intriguing World War II novel that presents the reader with a fascinating and memorable examination of the infamous V2 rocket program.  Featuring a compelling story, fantastic characters and an outstanding historical focus, V2 was an awesome and captivating read that is really worth checking out.

WWW Wednesday – 9 September 2020

WWW Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Taking on a World of Words, where bloggers share the books that they’ve recently finished, what they are currently reading and what books they are planning to read next. Essentially you have to answer three questions (the Three Ws):

What are you currently reading?
What did you recently finish reading?
What do you think you’ll read next?

So, let’s get to it.

What are you currently reading?

To Sleep in a Sea of Stars by Christopher Paolini (Trade Paperback)

To Sleep in a Sea of Stars Cover

I have just started to read To Sleep in a Sea of Stars, the epic new science fiction novel from Christopher Paolini, author of the bestselling The Inheritance Cycle.  This is so far proving to be a rather compelling read and I cannot wait to see how it turns out.  This is a massive book, so it’s probably going to take me a while to get through it.  Still it will be worth it if some of the early buzz I’m hearing around this novel is true.


Dogs of War
by Jonathan Maberry (Audiobook)

Dogs of War Cover

I was in between audiobooks so I thought that this would be a good time to listen to Dogs of War by Jonathan Maberry.  Falling in between Kill Switch and Deep Silence, this is the only Joe Ledger novel I have so far not read and I am eager to finish this series off this year.  I am making some very steady progress with this awesome audiobook so far and I should get through it in the next few days.

What did you recently finish reading?

V2 by Robert Harris (Ebook)

V2 Cover


Redshirts
by John Scalzi (Audiobook)

Redshirts Cover

Relentless by R. A. Salvatore (Audiobook)

Relentless Cover

What do you think you’ll read next?

The Devil and the Dark Water by Stuart Turton (Trade Paperback)

The Devil and the Dark Water Cover

 

That’s it for this week, check back in next Wednesday to see what progress I’ve made on my reading and what books I’ll be looking at next.

WWW Wednesday – 2 September 2020

WWW Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Taking on a World of Words, where bloggers share the books that they’ve recently finished, what they are currently reading and what books they are planning to read next. Essentially you have to answer three questions (the Three Ws):

What are you currently reading?
What did you recently finish reading?
What do you think you’ll read next?

So, let’s get to it.

What are you currently reading?

V2 by Robert Harris (Ebook)

V2 Cover

V2 is the latest historical fiction novel from bestselling author Robert Harris.  This new book follows a World War II espionage mission to stop the German’s deadly V2 rocket attacks.  I only started this one today, but so far it is proving to be a rather interesting read.

Relentless by R. A. Salvatore (Audiobook)

Relentless Cover

I started listening to this a few days ago and I have been powering through it ever since.  Relentless is the final book in the latest trilogy of Drizzt Do’Urden novels, following on from Timeless and Boundless.  This has so far been another epic read from Salvatore and I am having an amazing time listening to it.  I cannot wait to see how this current trilogy ends and I should hopefully finish this audiobook off in the next day or so.

What did you recently finish reading?

Blunt Force by Lynda La Plante (Trade Paperback)

Blunt Force Cover


Harrow the Ninth
 by Tamsyn Muir (Audiobook)

Harrow the Ninth Cover


The Space Between Worlds
by Micaiah Johnson (Trade Paperback)

The Space Between Worlds Cover

What do you think you’ll read next?

To Sleep in a Sea of Stars by Christopher Paolini (Trade Paperback)

To Sleep in a Sea of Stars Cover

 

That’s it for this week, check back in next Wednesday to see what progress I’ve made on my reading and what books I’ll be looking at next.

Top Ten Tuesday – Books to While Away the Lockdown

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme that currently resides at The Artsy Reader Girl and features bloggers sharing lists on various book topics. The official topic for this week’s Top Ten Tuesday was Ten Signs You’re a Book Lover. While that did sound like an interesting topic, I thought I would do something a little different. Today was actually my first day working from home due to the current coronavirus outbreak. While my city is not officially locked down yet, I am going to be spending a lot of time indoors for the next couple of months, which I fully intend to use as an opportunity to catch up on some reading that I have been meaning to do. Unfortunately, it is very likely that I am going to get a limited number of new books coming in, due to businesses shutting down and release dates being knocked back (the main bookshops in my city literally just announced they were closing their doors today). Luckily, I have a huge number of books already on my shelf which I have been hoping to read for some time. As a result, I thought I would take this opportunity to list the top ten books from previous years that I want to go back and read during this homebound period.

Over the last couple of years, I have been building up a massive collection of books which I have been meaning to read. This is a pretty eclectic mixture of novels from across the various genres, featuring an interesting range of topics and authors. I am hopefully going to get around to reading all of them at some point, but for this list I went through and selected the top ten (with an honourable mentions section) that I want to try and check out first. I figure that this list will be a good focusing tool, and hopefully by the time this whole crisis is over I will have managed to get through a reasonable chunk of them. For this list, I am limiting my choices to those books that I physically have on my shelf right now, and I won’t be including books that I want to read that I have to go and buy. I have to admit that this is a pretty random collection of books, and I haven’t always chosen the best books on the shelf. These are the ones that I want to read first, either because I enjoyed the previous entries in the series, I have heard good things about them or because the plot sounds really interesting and I want to finally check it out. So let’s see which books made the list.

Honourable Mentions:

 

State of Fear by Tim Ayliffe – 22 July 2019

State of Fear Cover

The sequel to the excellent 2018 Australian thriller The Greater Good.

The Warehouse by Rob Hart – 13 August 2019

The Warehouse Cover


The Second Sleep
by Robert Harris – 20 August 2019

The Second Sleep Cover

Top Ten List (By Release Date):


The Deathless
by Peter Newman – 14 June 2018

the deathless cover

This first entry on my list is rather intriguing-sounding fantasy novel that I picked up a couple of years ago but never got a chance to read. I have been quite keen to check this out for a while and I even featured it on my Top Ten Books I Wish I Read in 2018 list. Newman has already written two fantastic-sounding sequels to this book, so I definitely need to pick up my game and have a go at reading The Deathless.

Watch the Girls by Jennifer Wolfe – 10 July 2018

Watch the Girls Cover

This next book is a rather cool-sounding thriller novel, which I rather regret not reading back in 2018. I really liked the interesting concept that Watch the Girls had, and I always thought that this would be quite a fun book to read.

The Winter Road by Adrian Selby – 13 November 2018

The Winter Road Cover

Now this is one that I have been really trying to read for ages. The Winter Road was probably one of the more awesome-sounding fantasy novels of 2018, with amazing plot about a massive merchant caravan trying to get through a dangerous wilderness. I honestly have no idea how I never got around to reading this one, and I will be extremely happy if I finally get a chance in the next few months.

The Ruin of Kings by Jenn Lyons – 5 February 2019

The Ruin of Kings Cover

The Ruin of Kings is one of the biggest fantasy releases of last year, and I have been hoping to check it out since I first got it. Unfortunately, it has just been sitting unread on my shelf instead, even though I included it on my Top Ten Books I Wish I Read in 2019 list. The third and final book in this series is just around the corner, so I really cannot afford to waste any more time with this one.

The Bear Pit by S. G. MacLean – 11 July 2019

The Bear Pit Cover


The Bastille Spy
by C. S. Quinn – 1 August 2019

The Bastille Spy Cover

This was one of the more fascinating historical fiction releases of last year, and I am truly sorry I did not get around to enjoying The Bastille Spy. Following a female British spy who helps free and smuggle noblemen from revolutionary France, this book sounded absolutely incredible. I really need to have a look at this book soon, as the sequel is hopefully coming out soon.

Magebane by Stephen Aryan – 6 August 2019

Magebane Cover

The third and final book in the Age of Dread trilogy, Magebane sounded like an extremely fun and explosive fantasy novel, which I did hope to check out last year. I really enjoyed the previous novel in the series, Magefall, so I have high hopes for this latest book.

Grave Importance by Vivian Shaw – 20 August 2019

Grave Importance Cover


Duplicity
by Richard Evans – 1 September 2019

Duplicity Cover


Salvation Lost
by Peter F. Hamilton – 29 October 2019

Salvation Lost Cover
Well that’s my list. I am hopeful that I will get a chance to check out all of the books featured above in the next few months, and I am sure that they will keep me extremely entertained and sane during my time at home. I hope everyone is staying safe during these hard times, and I wish you all luck during the difficult coming year. In the meantime, let me know which of the books above you enjoyed and what novels you are hoping to read during your lockdown period.

Top Ten Tuesday – Books I Wish I read in 2019

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme that currently resides at The Artsy Reader Girl and features bloggers sharing lists on various book topics. For this week’s Top Ten Tuesday, I am going to take a look at the top ten books I wish I had read in 2019. 2019 was an absolutely great year for books and I managed to get through a massive pile of fantastic reads (make sure to check out my top reads of 2019 list). However, there are always going to be some outstanding releases that you miss, and 2019 was filled with some amazing books that I wish I had gotten a chance to read. So, I thought I would take the time to highlight which 2019 releases I most regret not getting the chance to read. Hopefully by including them on this list, I will encourage myself to read some of them throughout this year.

Readers of my blog might remember that I did a similar list to this at the start of last year, with my Top Ten Books I Wish I Read in 2018 list. For this earlier list, I looked at which books I most regretted not reading in 2018, and made it a priority to try and get through them at some point. I actually made a little bit of progress getting through the books on this list last year, as I ended up reading three out of the 10 books that featured on this earlier list (like I said, a little bit of progress). Each of these three books that I ended up reading in 2019, which included Cold Iron by Miles Cameron, The Ember Blade by Chris Wooding and King of Assassins by R. J. Barker (review still pending), were extremely epic books, and each of them received a full five out of five stars from me. I am still going to try and read some of the other books that were featured on this 2018 list in the future, but it is definitely time to look to the releases of 2019. Hopefully I will enjoy some of the inclusions on this new list as much as the books I went back to check out last year.

For this list any book with a 2019 release date that I have not yet read is eligible to be included. I had a feeling before I started that this will be a pretty diverse list as there were quite a few intriguing-sounding novels out there that I did not get a chance to try out. It turned out that there were quite a few books out there that I wish I had read last year, but I was eventually able to work out what my top ten were. I think that each of the novels featured on this list have a great amount of potential, especially those where I have already read an earlier book in the series. So, let us get to the list.

Honourable Mentions:


Grave Importance
by Vivian Shaw

Grave Importance Cover


The Russian 
by Ben Coes

The Russian Cover


Nottingham
by Nathan Makaryk

Nottingham Cover


The Second Sleep
by Robert Harris

The Second Sleep Cover

Top Ten List:


The Institute
by Stephen King

The Institute Cover 1

For the second year in a row, the latest Stephen King tops my list of books I wish I had read. While The Institute sounded extremely interesting, I just could not fit it into my reading schedule. I think that I will really have to try and get through this book at some point this year.

The Ruin of Kings and The Name of All Things by Jenn Lyons

Jenn Lyons COver

I’m going to do a double feature for this second entry and feature the first two books in Jenn Lyons’s A Chorus of Dragons series. Both of these books were released last year, and they sounded like particularly intriguing pieces of fantasy fiction that I really wanted to read. Unfortunately, I had to prioritise other books in front of The Ruin of Kings, and I did not want to take a look at The Name of All Things until I’d gotten through the first book. The end result is that I didn’t read either of them, which is a real shame. I must try and have a go at reading both of them this year, especially as the third book in the series, The Memory of Souls (which has a rather cool picture of an elephant on its front cover), is set for release in August.

Salvation Lost by Peter F. Hamilton

Salvation Lost Cover

This is probably the most surprising novel I did not read last year. Salvation Lost is the sequel to 2018’s Salvation, which was one of my favourite books in 2018. I have been meaning to read this sequel since about July, and yet somehow, I keep completely failing to even pick it up. I will hopefully get to this one very soon, and it is probably the book on this list I am most likely to read next.

The Bear Pit by S. G. MacLean

The Bear Pit Cover

The Bear Pit is another book whose preceding novel, Destroying Angel, I found to be pretty spectacular. I was really looking forward to The Bear Pit, especially as it featured a really cool sounding mystery in a fascinating historical period. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to get a copy of this book (the one copy I saw in the shop was damaged, the horror, the horror) and so didn’t get around to reading it. I will read this book at some point in the future and I cannot wait to dive into another one of MacLean’s compelling and complex murder mystery storylines.

Alien: Echo by Mira Grant

Alien Echo Cover

An Alien book, written by horror extraordinaire Mira Grant! How have I not read this book yet? I was really looking forward to Alien: Echo earlier in the year, especially after I enjoyed Grant’s last novel, Into the Drowning Deep. I actually have a copy of this book currently sitting on my shelf, silently judging me, and I will have to carve out some time to get through this one.

We Are the Dead by Mike Shackle

We are the Dead Cover

We Are the Dead was a rather intriguing-sounding 2019 fantasy debut that I very much regret not getting a copy of. I have heard some pretty amazing things about this book, and I really wish that I had managed to check it out. The sequel, A Fool’s Hope, is set for release in July, and I will have to make an effort and read We Are the Dead before this second book comes out.

Duplicity by Richard Evans

Duplicity Cover

This was the second book in Evans’s Democracy series, the first book of which, Deceit, was also featured on my favourite reads of 2018 list. Deceit was an excellent political thriller that expertly portrayed chaotic events that occur within Australia’s Parliament House. I was really looking forward to the sequel, especially as it was going to look at Australia’s electoral process, but unfortunately I just didn’t get a chance to read it. This is another one I am probably going to try and read in the next couple of weeks, and I think it is going to be a really outstanding piece of Australian fiction.

The Taking of Annie Thorne by C. J. Tudor

The Taking of Annie Thorne Cover

This was fantastic-sounding novel that I heard some good things about from other reviewers. The Taking of Annie Thorne, also titled The Hiding Place, was another dark thriller from Tudor, acclaimed author of The Chalk Man, which featured another of the author’s clever-sounding plots. I really want to check this one out in its audiobook format as it was narrated by Richard Armitage, and I look forward to hearing him tell the story.

Star Wars: Dooku: Jedi Lost by Cavan Scott

Dooku - Jedi Lost Cover

Somehow I failed to read all the Star Wars books that were released last year, which is just disappointing. Dooku: Jedi Lost is a deeply intriguing Star Wars novel that somehow failed to turn up on my radar until after its release. This piece of Star Wars fiction began life exclusively as an audio production, although a printed version has since been produced. The book examines the life of Star Wars antagonist Count Dooku and shows why he left the Jedi Order and how he was seduced by the Dark Side of the Force. Because it is a Star Wars novel, I already know I am going to love it, and it is pretty much guaranteed that I will listen to this at some point. I am really looking forward to learning more about the history of Count Dooku, and from the sounds of it, this book will have some strong ties to one of my favourite Star Was book of 2019, Master & Apprentice.

The Wolf’s Call by Anthony Ryan

The Wolf's Call Cover

The final book on this list is The Wolf’s Call by bestselling fantasy author Anthony Ryan. The Wolf’s Call is the first book in Ryan’s new Raven’s Blade series, which follows the adventures of a legendary warrior forced to fight another bloody war. This book has a really intriguing-sounding plot and received some very high praise from reviewers, so I will have to try and read it at some point. I might actually read the three books in Ryan’s Raven’s Shadow series first, as they are set in the same world.

 

It looks like I have a lot catch-up reading to do if I am going to make a dent in this list. There are some truly amazing-sounding novels on this list and I fully intend to get through all of them at some point, although with all the outstanding books coming out in 2020, it might take me a little time. In the meantime, let me know what books you most regret not reading in 2019 in the comments below.

Book Haul – 29 July 2019

I’ve had another great week on the book front, getting my hands on several excellent sounding novels that I think I will have an amazing time reading in the near future.  I’ve got a pretty interesting mixture of books and I am looking forward to checking them out.

The Dirty Dozen by Lynda La Plante

The Dirty Dozen Cover.jpg

The latest book in La Plante’s fantastic Jane Tennison thriller series, which acts as a prequel to author’s Prime Suspect television show.  I’ve really enjoyed the last two books in the series, Good Friday and Murder Mile, and the plot of The Dirty Dozen sounds really cool.

The Warehouse by Rob Hart

The Warehouse Cover.jpg

This sounds like a really interesting piece of science fiction, especially as it looks at some current social issues.

The Second Sleep by Robert Harris

The Second Sleep Cover.jpg

This is one that I am going to have to read as soon as possible.  I have read some of Robert Harris’ stuff in the past and he has written some great pieces of historical fiction before.  However, I’ve been informed that there are some interesting twists occurring quite early on in the book.  I haven’t gotten any more details than that, but I am extremely curious to see what happens.

Shoot Through by J. M. Green

Shoot Through Cover.jpg

This is a fun sounding Australian thriller, I am looking forward to checking this out.

Wild by Nathan Besser

Wild Cover.jpg

Another intriguing historical fiction novel, this one sounds like it could be quite a compelling read, and I look forward to checking out this unique historical tale.

Spaceside by Michael Mammay

Spaceside Cover

I was lucky enough to get an advanced e-copy of Spaceside this week.  Spaceside is a book I have been looking forward to for a while, as the first book in the series, Planetside, was one of my favourite books of last year.  I have so far featured Spaceside in one of my Waiting on Wednesday articles and my recent Top Ten Most Anticipated July-December 2019 list and I hope I love it as much as Planetside.

That’s this week’s book haul.  I better start diving into these books, so much to read, so little time.