Reviewed date: 2020 Feb 1
Calling Subway Enthusiasts
Subway enthusiasts should be sure not to miss this one. Ronald Archer slips over into the alternate Nazi New York City timeline and is immediately chased by police. He eludes them, and then the book is a painstaking detailed and--I'm sure-- absolutely gripping account of the subway system. There's a continuation of the IRT Flushing line! A new branch of the IND. A new Third Avenue line.
Nazis and Aliens
This timeline is ruled by the Angels, alien overlords who arrived in 1938. WW2 never happened. Goebbels is rabble-rousing in New York City. He is pro-Hitler, anti-alien overlord, pro-human, and anti-Jew.
Arthur makes contact with the Technocrats, an underground anti-Angel resistance.
Hugo Gernsback is a Technocrat leader. Oh no. Oh no oh no. Please tell me this book isn't going to devolve into a propaganda piece for the superiority of science fiction writers and fans, wherein only science fiction can literally save the world from alien overlords and Nazis.
Please don't be that book.
Kidnapped by Communists is good.
Archer just got kidnapped by Communists. Or as the Commies put it, rescued from the Neo-Nazi Technocrats. In this timeline the alien overlords removed the Nazis from power, and the remnants of their party are reduced to rabble-rousing in the southern US. Communists were useful to the overlords so they remained in power, but only insofar as they were effective administrators. Communism as an ideology is dead.
The Communists torture Archer for information about his timeline. They want to invade and take over. Archer lulls them into complacency, then violently escapes. Being a large, fast, strong man has its advantages.
Kidnapped by Nazis
Archer is immediately scooped up by the Nazis, then Angels steal him from the Nazis. Sharna, a beautiful young Angel woman questions him. Actually, she mostly delivers exposition: the Angels (from the planet Shalianna) have an empire much like those of Earth's, conquering and plundering for profit. Sharna is a bleeding heart and feels guilty for all the imperialism, but her faction is in the minority on Shalianna.
Archer begins an affair with Sharna. She's a beautiful woman, nearly human in every way. But she has a tail.
This is so, so dumb.
The Nazis kidnap Archer back from the Angels. The Nazi Colonel marches Archer straight to a meeting with Adolf Hitler himself.
In New York City.
It seems everybody has set up shop in New York City.
Hitler throws a cocktail party. Archer knows what the Nazis did in his timeline and has trouble seeing Hitler as humanity's hope against the alien overlords. But this Hitler has (at least temporarily) set aside his animosity toward Jews to focus his hatred on the Angels.
Only Goebbels is still fixated on Jew-hating.
It's still disturbing. And I still don't know why Archer, a struggling private eye, is important.
Murder, and re-kidnapped by the aliens
At Hitler's party Archer meets Mingus, a Believer who worships the Angels. Mingus helps Archer murder the woman companion assigned to mind him during the party (while they are unseen on a dark balcony), then spirits Archer away and takes him to the spaceport. Sharna is leaving earth and wants to take Archer with her.
Nobody thinks to ask Archer's permission for any of this.
Archer studies galactic history on the voyage. The Angels are properly called Suolanians. The Suolanian Condominium is only the third most powerful galactic empire. They are cautious imperialists, preferring to establish colonies on primitive worlds rather than risk a big war against a real power.
Sharna's goal is to help Earth achieve independence.
The Suolanians drug Archer and tap into his ancestral memories. He tells them of Earth, of humanity, of heroic and virtuous men. The Suolanians love it. They grant Earth the status of Protected Associate in the Condominium. Earth is free.
Archer feels used. He yells at Sharna and stomps off to find a bar--no small thing on a planet where nobody drinks alcohol.
Yes! Yes! Archer fights his evil Nazi counterpart.
He returns to Earth to help set up a transition government, but the Nazis take matters into their own hands are attempt to violently seize power. Archer helps the Angels fight the Nazis, and ends up in hand-to-hand combat with the Archer of this world: a die-hard Nazi.
The good Archer fights the Nazi Archer, and marvels at how fast, how strong, how powerful and athletic and impressive his identical counterpart is. It's weird and unsettling. Good Archer kills Nazi Archer.
All is returned to normal
The Technocrats send Archer back to his own timeline.