Thursday, September 26, 2019

September's Book: Days of Infamy

Days of Infamy by Harry Turtledove
Alternate History (2004 - 520 pp.)

Days of Infamy is the first book in Harry Turtledove's duology* about what could have happened if the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor had turned into an all-out amphibious invasion. The book, therefore, alternates between various Japanese occupiers, American soldiers and American civilians. The events all occur on Hawaii except for the opening in Tokyo and the sections featuring Joe Crosetti, an Italian-American cadet living in San Francisco and training in Pensacola. As is commonplace on this blog, the Book One Effect is in full swing. However, there are only two books in the Days of Infamy series, so a quick follow-up read of End of the Beginning (2005) should be easy.

Days of Infamy starts the way history actually went: with Isoroku Yamamoto and Minoru Genda planning the Pearl Harbor attack. (1-5) Turtledove's combination of real-life figures and fictional-but-believable characters brings the reader right into the events, as if existing as a fly on the wall.** From there, the modified Pearl Harbor is 40-50 pages of action and suspense, sure to liven the heart of any Axis & Allies player. Then, of course, there's how people react to the sudden and unexpected Japanese occupation of Hawaii. One example is Oscar van der Kirk, an American transplant turned beach bum, who is a surfer who invents sailboarding in this timeline; his full story is too entertaining to be repeated.

Joe's world goes back and forth between the excitement he feels at training and the devastation he feels when his relatives die in a bombing raid. When he is bussed off to training as an aviator, he quickly meets his new roommate, Orson Sharp, a Mormon from Utah. Sharp is used to snow, but it's bizarre to Crosetti. (192)

Meanwhile, American military officers suffer, and anyone close to them suffers too. Fletcher Armitage is a high-ranking officer who becomes a POW, shortly after his separation from his wife Jane. Jane's fate is no better, as she ends up being coerced by the occupying Japanese authorities into mending a of turnips and potatoes. (234) Similarly, Lieutenant Jim Peterson ransfers from the Navy to the Army, which costs him epaulets. The book assumes Admiral Halsey dies during the initial raid, which leads to chaos.

The book's emotional high comes near the end, when the occupation is complete. Kenzo is a late-teenage-aged Japanese-American whose father is in favour of the occupation, but he and his brother are staunchly American. Kenzo dates Elsie Sundberg, an American. Kenzo can't make sense of the occupation, a sentiment that is surely echoed through many occupations past:
Then he looked west, toward Pearl Harbor. No, no fireworks tonight. The U.S. Navy was gone from these parts. Everything else that had to do with the United States seemed gone, too. So where was there a place for a person of Japanese blood who thought he had the right to be an American? Anywhere at all? (510-511)
Confusingly, there is another book called Days of Infamy that is, as well, an alternate history about the Empire of Japan conquering Hawaii in the time following Pearl Harbor. It is the second book in its series. It came out in 2008, well after Harry Turtledove's book hit the market. This is why you Google your proposed book titles before you write, folks.*** This second Days of Infamy was written in part by Newt Gingrich. I don't usually give Newt Gingrich unsolicited advice online, but when I do, it's apparently about searching book titles.

Ease of Reading: 7
Educational Content: 4



*So few book series are exactly two books that "duology" is an uncommon word. To wit: "trilogy" yields 168 million Google search results, whereas "duology" yields only 1.49 million.

**Turtledove has a tendency to use "as if" to introduce a simile, as in "he laughed, as if hearing a joke". He also has his characters frequently say clich├ęs in order to evoke the time and place. Whether these are faults is subjective.

***The musical equivalent is "Google your song titles before you write your choruses". Arguably the most notable example is British power metal band DragonForce releasing the song "Die by the Sword" in 2012, a full 29 years after the classic Slayer song of the same name. One would think the DragonForce song was a cover, but alas, it is not.

Saturday, September 14, 2019

RBC Race for the Kids 2019

This morning marked my fourth consecutive, and fourth overall, RBC Race for the Kids. The Race for the Kids is a spectacular annual event, held every September in North York, to raise money for Sunnybrook Hospital's youth mental health programs.

Notable regulars include Mayor of Toronto John Tory, the New Balance sneaker mascot and, of course, your favourite book blogger. Free giveaways set up throughout Mel Lastman Square include Starbucks coffee, Clif bars, Kashi snacks, and ROAR organic flavoured water. For more substantial appetites, Encore Catering offers breakfast sandwiches, and there are also bananas. For even more substantial appetites, the blocked-off stretch of Yonge Street between Sheppard and Finch is packed with restaurants.

A record 9,300 people ran today in either the 5K or the 10K (I did the 5K, starting in the red corral). I had the good result of finishing 131st out of all 4,742 people who ran the 5K, although only approximately the top half were actually running. (People with strollers and dogs, or prefer who prefer to walk, usually walk at the end.)

Here are a few of the many highlights from this morning's race:

From top to bottom, and left to right: (1) Me in front of the food tents, (2) Me with the finish line, (3) Me with the New Balance shoe mascot, (4) Runners waiting at the start line, (5) Runners in front of the North York Civic Centre, (6) John Tory speaking to the runners about the importance of youth mental health programs, (7) The yellow corral, (8) the start line. Where selfies have been taken, it was purely due to a lack of available picture-takers despite the bright blue ocean of people around me. Not pictured in this collage: my new profile picture is of me about to start the race!

It was a good day for the race, clear and cool. Armed with my fourth consecutive free Dri-Fit shirt, I'm ready to train for 2020!

A huge thank you to all of my donors, who helped me reach Community Fundraiser status.

Sunday, September 1, 2019

Happy Labour Day from the Kawarthas!

In the spirit of celebrating long weekends by taking pictures of macro insects, here's a gorgeous monarch butterfly I caught by the Trent-Severn Waterway yesterday:


The shadow looks like another wing.