Weapons of Choice (Axis of Time Trilogy #1) [NOOK Book]


On the eve of America’s greatest victory in the Pacific,
a catastrophic event disrupts the course of World War II, forever changing the rules of combat. . . .

The impossible has spawned the unthinkable. A military experiment in the year 2021 has thrust an American-led multinational armada back to 1942, right into the middle of the U.S. ...
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Weapons of Choice (Axis of Time Trilogy #1)

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On the eve of America’s greatest victory in the Pacific,
a catastrophic event disrupts the course of World War II, forever changing the rules of combat. . . .

The impossible has spawned the unthinkable. A military experiment in the year 2021 has thrust an American-led multinational armada back to 1942, right into the middle of the U.S. naval task force speeding toward Midway Atoll—and what was to be the most spectacular U.S. triumph of the entire war.

Thousands died in the chaos, but the ripples had only begun. For these veterans of Pearl Harbor—led by Admirals Nimitz, Halsey, and Spruance—have never seen a helicopter, or a satellite link, or a nuclear weapon. And they’ve never encountered an African American colonel or a British naval commander who was a woman and half-Pakistani. While they embrace the armada’s awesome firepower, they may find the twenty-first century sailors themselves far from acceptable.

Initial jubilation at news the Allies would win the war is quickly doused by the chilling realization that the time travelers themselves—by their very presence—have rendered history null and void. Celebration turns to dread when the possibility arises that other elements of the twenty-first century task force may have also made the trip—and might now be aiding Yamamoto and the Japanese.

What happens next is anybody’s guess—and everybody’s nightmare. . . .

From the Trade Paperback edition.
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
At the start of Australian author Birmingham's stellar debut novel, a United Nations battle group, clustered around the U.S.S. Hillary Clinton (named after "the most uncompromising wartime president in the history of the United States"), is tasked in the year 2021 with stopping ethnic cleansing by an Islamist regime in Indonesia. When an experiment goes horribly wrong on a special ship doing research on wormholes, most of the battle group is deposited in the middle of the U.S. fleet on its way to Midway in 1942. The WWII carriers and supporting vessels attack a Japanese Self-Defense Force ship, triggering devastating computer-operated defensive fire from the 21st-century fleet. While the action sequences are outstanding, this book really shines in depicting the cultural shock that both navies experience. The Clinton group reflects a multicultural society that finds the racist and sexist attitudes of 1942 America almost as repugnant as those of the Axis powers, while the mere thought of non-whites and women not just serving in uniform but holding command drives many Allied officers and civilian officials apoplectic. The author also subtly shows the ways in which 20-plus years of the War on Terrorism have changed our attitudes. Unlike many alternate histories, the novel avoids the wish-fulfillment aspect inherent in the genre. This is the first of what should be a hugely (and deservedly) successful series. Agent, Russ Galen at Scovil, Chichak, Galen Agency. (June 1) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
While sailing toward Midway in May 1942, the U.S. fleet, commanded by Admiral Nimitz, collides disastrously with a multinational armada from 2021. Crewed by a combination of soldiers from 21st-century America, England, Australia, Russia, Germany, and Japan, the ships from the future possess the technological capability of changing history for either the Axis or the Allies. This first novel by Birmingham (Leviathan) combines solid alternate military history reminiscent of Harry Turtledove with high-tech intrigue and suspense similar to the works of Tom Clancy. An excellent choice for readers of alternate history and military sf. Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
A naval task force in the future time-travels back to 1942 in this first of a SF trilogy. Australian Birmingham's first novel (after nonfiction in Rolling Stone, Playboy, etc.) combines the manner of Tom Clancy with a subject worthy of Harry Turtledove. In the year 2021, a multinational naval force assembles to combat a terrorist takeover in Malaysia; when a physics experiment goes awry, the ships time-travel back to May 1942, materializing in the midst of the US fleet steaming toward Midway. Each fleet opens fire, causing substantial damage to both, especially the heavily outgunned 1942 fleet. When cooler heads prevail, the commanders begin to sort out what has actually happened. Both sides are stunned-especially the WWII admirals, who realize that the weapons of the 21st century are more powerful than anything they can imagine. Even more unsettling are the personnel of the 21st-century fleet. The all-white, all-male Navy of 1942 and the multiethnic Navy of the future, with its high proportion of women, inevitably come into conflict once they begin to mingle. Meanwhile, a few ships of the future task force fall into Japanese hands, and Japanese Admiral Yamamoto is quick to absorb the lessons his captives bring him. The Axis powers, staring in the face of overwhelming defeat, adjust their strategy to the new situation. The first volume ends with a strong suggestion that the Allies may have only a temporary advantage. Birmingham does action sequences well, and he vividly portrays the conflicting attitudes of the past and near-future. Still, except for Yamamoto, the characters (including a who's-who of 1940s notables) barely come to life, and, between battles, the plot moves by fits andstarts. Long on gosh-wow and extreme violence, though few of the characters are compelling enough for the reader to care. Agent: Russell Galen/Scovil, Chichak, Galen
From the Publisher
"This is an excellent combination of near future military SF and alternate history, and a riveting story to boot."–Eric Flint, author of 1632 and 1634: The Galileo Affair

"This book has everying: time travel, the British royalty, things that go boom, and unrelenting action. Read the opening at your own risk: you won't be doing anything else until you finish it."–Sean WILLIAMS, co-author of Heirs of Earth and Star Wars: Force Heretic: Reunion

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780345478382
  • Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 6/1/2004
  • Series: Axis of Time , #1
  • Sold by: Random House
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 448
  • Sales rank: 68,846
  • File size: 729 KB

Read an Excerpt

Chapter 1

East Timor, Zone Time: 0942 Hours, 15 January 2021

The Calihate spy, a Javanese carpenter known simply as Adil, resettled himself against a comfortable groove in the sandalwood tree. The small, shaded clearing in the hills overlooking Dili had been his home for three days. He shared it with an aged feral cat, which remained hidden throughout the day, and an irritable monkey, which occasionally tried to shit on his head. He had considered shooting the filthy animal, but his orders were explicit. He was to remain unnoticed as long as the crusaders were anchored off East Timor, observing their fleet and sending reports via microburst laser link, but only in the event of a "significant development."

He had seen nothing "significant" in seventy-two hours. The infidel ships were lying so far offshore they were often lost in haze and distance. Only when night fell did he have any real chance of seeing them, and even then they remained little more than a blurred constellation of twinkling, faraway lights. Such was their arrogance they didn't bother to cloak themselves in darkness.

Jets roared to and from the flight deck of their carrier twenty-four hours a day. In deepest night the fire of the launches appeared to Adil as though God Himself had lit a torch on the rim of the world.

Occasionally a helicopter would appear from the direction of the flotilla, beginning as a small, indistinct dot in the hot gray sky, taking on recognizable form only as the muffled drone of its engines clarified into a thudding, growling roar. From his hiding spot Adil could almost make out the faces of the infidels in the cabins of the fat metal birds. American, British, French, they all looked alike, cruel and overfed, a thought that reminded him of his own hunger.

He unwrapped the banana leaves from around a small rice cake, thanking Allah for the generosity of his masters. They had included a little dried fish in his rations for today, a rare treat.

Sometimes, when the sun climbed directly overhead and beat down with a slow fury, Adil's thoughts wandered. He cursed his weakness and begged God for the strength to carry out his duty, but it was hard. He had fallen asleep more than once. Nothing ever seemed to happen. There was plenty of movement down in Dili, which was infested with crusader forces from all over the Christian world, but Dili wasn't his concern. His sole responsibility was to watch those ships that were hiding in the shimmering haze on the far horizon.

Still, Adil mused, it would be nice to know he had some real purpose here; that he had not been staked out like a goat on the side of a hill. Perhaps he was to be part of some elaborate strike on the Christians in town. Perhaps tonight the darkness would be torn asunder by holy fire as some martyr blew up one of their filthy taverns. But then, why leave him here on the side of this stupid hill, covered in monkey shit and tormented by ants?

This wasn't how he had imagined jihad would be when he had graduated from the Madrasa in Bandung.

USS Kandahar, 1014 Hours, 15 January 2021

The marines wouldn't have been surprised at all to discover that someone like Adil was watching over them. In fact, they assumed there were more than two hundred million pairs of eyes turned their way as they prepared to deploy into the Indonesian Archipelago.

Nobody called it the Caliphate. Officially the United States still recognized it as the sovereign territory of Indonesia, seventeen thousand islands stretching from Banda Aceh, three hundred kilometers off the coast of Thailand, down to Timor, just north of Australia. The sea-lanes passing through those islands carried a third of the world's maritime trade, and officially they remained open to all traffic. The Indonesian government-in-exile said so-from the safety of the Grand Hyatt in Geneva where they had fled, three weeks earlier, after losing control of Jakarta.

Unofficially though, these were the badlands, controlled-just barely-by a revolutionary Islamic government calling itself the Caliphate and laying claim to all seventeen thousand islands, as well as the territory of Malaysia, the Philippines, Brunei, East Timor, Papua New Guinea, Bougainville, and, for good measure, northern Australia. Nonbelievers were not welcome. The spiritual leader of the Caliphate, Mullah Ibn Abbas, had proclaimed this as the will of Allah.

The Eighty-second Marine Expeditionary Unit begged to differ. And on the hangar deck of the USS Kandahar, a Baghdad-class littoral assault ship, they were preparing a full and frank rebuttal.

The hangar was a vast, echoing space. Two full decks high and running nearly a third of the length of the slab-sided vessel, it still seemed crowded, packed tight with most of the Eighty-second's air wing-a small air force in its own right consisting of a dozen Ospreys, four aging Super Stallions, two reconditioned command Hueys, eight Sea Comanche gunships, and half a dozen Super Harriers.

The Harriers and Super Stallions had been moved onto the "roof"-the flight deck, thus allowing the ground combat element of the Eighty-second MEU to colonize the space that had been opened up. The GCE was formally known as the Third Battalion of the Ninth Regiment, Fifth Marine Division. It was also known as the Lonesome Dead, after their passably famous CO, Colonel J. Lonesome Jones.

Not all of 3 Batt were embarked upon the Kandahar. The battalion topped out at more than twelve hundred men and women, and some of their number had to be berthed elsewhere in the three ships that were carry-

ing the Eighty-second into harm's way. The USS Providence, a Harper's Ferry-class amphibious landing dockship (LSD), took the battalion's four Abrams tanks, a rifle company, and the amphibious assault vehicle platoon. The Kennebunkport, a venerable LPD 12, carried the recon platoon, the regiment's Humvees, two more Hueys, the drone platoon, and the Navy SEAL team that would be providing security to the Eighty-second during their cruise through the archipelago.

Even as Adil unwrapped his rice cake and squinted into the blue expanse of the Wetar Strait a six-man detachment from the SEAL team was unpacking their gear on the hangar deck of the Kandahar, where they were getting set to train the men of C Company, 3 Batt.

Charlie Company doubled as Colonel Jones's cliff assault and small boat raiding squadron, and the SEALs had come to acquaint them with a new toy: the G4, a lightweight assault rifle that fired strips of caseless ceramic ammunition and programmable 30mm grenades. It was to become standard equipment throughout the U.S. armed forces within twelve months. The marines, however, were always at the bottom of the food chain, and would probably have waited two years before they laid hands on these toys. But the battalion logistics officer, Lieutenant Colonel Nancy Viviani, was an inventive and talented S4. As always, Viviani was determined that the battalion should have the very best equipment other people's money could buy.

Not that long ago she would have been known as a scavenger, a scrounger, and would have done her job under the cover of darkness with a pair of wire cutters and a fast getaway jeep. She would have been a man, too, of course. But Lieutenant Colonel Viviani carried two master's degrees into combat, one of them an MBA from the London School of Economics, and the graduates of that august institution didn't stoop to anything so crude as petty theft. Not when they could play the Pentagon's fantastically complex supply programs like an antique violin.

Six and a half hours of extracurricular keyboard time had been enough to release a shipment of G4s from pre-positioned supply vessels in Darwin. Viviani's genius was in making the process appear entirely legitimate. Had the Senate Armed Forces Committee itself spent a year inspecting her electronic audit trail, it would have found everything in order with absolutely nothing linking the G4 shipment to the loss of a similar supply package scheduled for delivery to an army public relations unit.

"This is the Remington G-four," CPO Vincente Rogas barked at the members of C Company. "By the end of today's lecture you will be familiar with the procedure for maintaining this weapon in the field." It sounded more like a threat than a promise.

"The G-four is the first solid-state infantry weapon," he bellowed. "It has very few moving parts."

A slight murmur passed through the tight knot of marines. They were familiar with the weapons specs, having intensively trained with them back in the United States. But still, it was a hell of a thing to wrap your head around.

"And this is the standard battle load." His audience stared at the long thin strip of ceramic munitions like children at their first magic show. "The ammo strip is placed in the barrel like this. An electrical charge ignites the propellant casing, driving the slug out with such velocity that, even with a three-round burst, you will feel no kickback-at least not before the volley leaves the muzzle.

"Tomorrow, when we move ashore to the range, each of you will be allotted three hundred rounds. I suggest very strongly that before then you take advantage of the full VR tutorial we've loaded into your training sets. The base software package is a standard Asian urban conflict scenario, but we've added modules specifically tailored for operations in Jakarta and Surabaya."

With deployment less than a fortnight away, similar scenes were being replayed throughout the U.S.-led Multinational Force accompanying the Kandahar. Twelve thousand very serious men and women drilled to the point of exhaustion. They were authorized by the UN Security Council to use whatever force was necessary to reestablish control of the capital, Jakarta, and to put an end to the mass murder of Indonesia's Chinese and Christian minorities. Everybody was preparing for a slaughter.

In the hundred-bed hospital of the Kandahar the Eighty-second's chief combat surgeon, Captain Margie Francois, supervised her team's reaction to a simulated missile strike on an armored hovercraft carrying a marine rifle company into a contested estuary.

Two thousand meters away, the French missile frigate Dessaix dueled with a pair of Raptors off the supercarrier USS Hillary Clinton.

In the other direction, three thousand meters to the west, two British trimaran stealth destroyers practiced their response to a successful strike by suicide bombers whose weapon of choice had been a high-speed rubber boat. Indeed, Captain Karen Halabi, who had been on the receiving end of just such an attack as a young ensign, drilled the crew of the HMS Trident so fiercely that in those few hours they were allowed to sleep, most dreamed of crazy men in speedboats laden with TNT.

JRV Nagoya, 1046 Hours, 15 January 2021

As diverse as these ships were, one still stood out. The Joint Research Vessel Nagoya was a purpose-built leviathan, constructed around the frame of an eighty-thousand-tonne liquid natural gas carrier. Her keel had been laid down in Korea, with the fit-out split between San Francisco and Tokyo, reflecting the multinational nature of her funding. She fit in with the sleek warships of the Multinational Force the way a hippo would with a school of swordfish.

Her presence was a function of the speed with which the crisis in Jakarta had developed. The USS Leyte Gulf, a stealth cruiser from the Clinton's battle group, had been riding shotgun over the Nagoya's sea trials in the benign waters off Western Australia. When the orders came down that the carrier and her battle group were to move immediately into the Wetar Strait the Nagoya had been left with no choice but to tag along until an escort could be assigned to shepherd her safely back to Hawaii. It was a situation nobody liked, least of all Professor Manning Pope, the leader of the Nagoya team.

Crouched over a console in his private quarters, Pope muttered under his breath as he hammered out yet another enraged e-mail directly to Admiral Tony Kevin, commander in chief, U.S. Pacific Command. It was the ninth such e-mail he had sent in forty-eight hours. Each had elicited a standardized reply, not from the admiral himself mind you, but from some trained monkey on his personal staff.

Pope typed, stabbing at the keys:

Need I remind you of the support this Project elicits at THE VERY HIGHEST LEVELS OF GOVERNMENT. I would not wish to be in your shoes, Admiral Kevin, when I explain to your superiors that we have gone over budget while being dragged into this pointless fiasco. The NAGOYA is a research vessel, not a warship, and we should have been allowed to continue our trials unmolested in the perfectly safe testing range off Perth. As small as they are, the Australian navy are more than capable of fending off any drunken fishermen who might have strayed too close.

Therefore I DEMAND that we be freed from this two-penny opera and allowed to return to our test schedule as originally planned. I await your earliest reply. And that means YOURS, Admiral Kevin. Not some junior baboon!

That'll put a rocket under his fat ass, thought Pope. Bureaucrats hate it when you threaten to go over their heads. It means they might actually have to stagger to their feet and do something for a change.

Spleen vented for the moment, he keyed into the vidlink that connected him with the Project control room. A Japanese man with a shock of unruly, thick black hair answered the hail.

"How do we look for a power-up this morning, Yoshi?" Pope asked. "I'm anxious to get back on schedule."

Standing at a long, curving bank of flatscreens Professor Yoshi Murayama, an unusually tall cosmic string theorist from Honshu, blew out his cheeks and shrugged. "I can't see why not from this end. We're just about finished entering the new data sets. We're good to go, except you know that Kolhammer won't like it."

"Kolhammer's a chickenshit," Pope said somewhat mournfully. "I really don't care what he thinks. He's not qualified to tell us what we can and cannot do. You are."

"Like I said," the Japanese Nobel winner responded. "I don't see a problem. Just a beautiful set of numbers."

"Of course." Pope nodded. "Everyone else feel the same?" he asked, raising his voice so that it projected into the room beyond Murayama. The space was surprisingly small for such a momentous undertaking, no bigger than a suburban living room really. Large glowing monitors shared the area with half a dozen senior Project researchers, each staffing a workstation.

His question caught them off-guard. Their boss enjoyed a hard-won reputation as a thoroughly unpleasant little prick with an amazingly rigid pole up his ass. A couple of them exchanged quick glances, but nobody said anything for a few moments until Barnes, their magnetic ram technician, ventured a reply.

"Well, it's not our fault we fell behind. But you can bet we'll get blamed if we don't hustle to catch up."

"Exactly!" Pope replied. "Let's prepare for a test run at point-zero-one efficiency. That should be enough to confirm a stabilized effect with the new figures. Are we all agreed?"

From the Trade Paperback edition.

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Table of Contents

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 72 )
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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 74 Customer Reviews
  • Posted November 11, 2009

    Treat this book as Sci-Fi and not a Techno Thriller

    All in all a good book after you get by the improbable circumstances that set the stage for the story. The resulting reactions by historical figures and the impact on where we might find ourselves today are fascinating.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 25, 2005

    Imaginative storyline and entertaining read

    A terrific read. Birmingham effortlessly weaves a compelling yarn around an absolutely incredulous scenario. The collision of 1940s culture with 21st century soldiering makes for gripping reading. I'm not a huge fan of alternate history and it may jar with purist fans of the genre. I normally read non-fiction, particularly military history. But I couldn't put it down. Read it in a day. A real page turner. It's well worth a look.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 15, 2012

    Great read

    This book hits the ground running and does not stop to take a breath! The SF mix with WWII is innovative and engrossing! It's one that you will not put down. Enjoy it!!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 16, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    Read it Enjoy it

    A very different look at history with some damn fine characters, very well done.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 3, 2005

    Interesting sci-fi, flawed history

    This book is a moderately good read, considering it combines silly sci-fi, incredible coincidences, and flawed US military history. The future task force's only Japanese ship just happens to land in the middle of Task Forces 16/17, close enough for the middle-of-the-night watch to see the Japanese flag? Yeah, sure. Too bad the two forces in reality sailed ten miles apart. Birmingham also makes a big deal of how 'crippled' the US Fleet becomes after this friendly-fire collision, but in reality the losses were little more that which happened actually at Midway and Guadacanal. Six to ten cruise missiles through Japanese carrier flight decks and the Pacific War would have been over, because the Japanese didn't have another large carrier scheduled to launch until 1944, by which time the US would have launched about 15. Instead, the future fleet attacks 1920-era Japanese battleships and POW camps. Again, in reality the carrier USS Saratoga arrived in Hawaii with 107 aircraft on June 8th, and hundreds of other aircraft arrived just before or after the battle of Midway. Birmingham also displays his lack of understanding of all things military by describing a 'twin-barreled 50mm chain gun', when in reality a 30mm gatling is the size of a Volkswagen by itself (I used to work on such). However, the social commentary is mildly interesting, especially the commando-type exploits of the female reporter. Maybe reporters got tired of being beheaded by assorted crazies by 2021.

    1 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 15, 2005

    bad choice for alternate history

    I picked this book up in the store to see what it's worth. And I must say that there must certainly be better authors with better books to publish than this. Being a fan of alternate history, to say the least, I must confess this book is a major disapointment. I find these rave reviews it is getting over rated, but perhaps because I desire a good alternate history based on history and human nature rather than the Politically Correct. It is one of the breed I have come to despise, a Politically Correct Sci-Fi a Star Trek set in the past devoid of reality and any real historical foundation. I put it back on the shelf rather than buy it.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 2, 2014



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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 2, 2014

    Comander Dawson to Hunter

    I will attack you on DEC. 13. I recomend you have your troops ready. ~Comander Dawson
    US WWII res 1 to 9

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 2, 2014


    Is totally confused. "Wheres Hunter?"

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 2, 2014


    She shrugged.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 1, 2014



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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 10, 2013

    Nicely done

    In his "Destroyerman" series, Taylor Anderson sends a WW 2 ship into a pre-technological world, with interesting results. Here, Birmingham takes the opposite tack: how a multi-national naval flotilla from the near future would affect the outcome of WW 2 if it somehow was moved back to just before the Battle of Midway?
    More than just the differences in technology, Birmingham deftly handles how a fully integrated naval force, with African-American, female and gay officers would encounter the all-white prejudiced Americans of the early 1940's. Besides, the battle scenes are top-notch!
    I look forward to the next volumes in the series. Fans of alternative history will like this series!

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  • Posted August 30, 2013

    more from this reviewer

    Excellent! Highly Recommend!

    Fast paced sea battles fought with conventional and super weapons. A lot of social problems and a lot of action.

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  • Posted February 22, 2013

    Recommended reading.

    Very interesting book. On par with Harry Turtledove. Have to believe that the future of warfare meeting with the past was really great. I liked this book and it's following two others. The characters are written with great enthusiasm. How the future turns out??? You will just have to read the series.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 26, 2012



    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 2, 2011



    0 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 26, 2005

    An entertaining read

    Weapons of Choice is an interesting and fairly well written entry into the alternate history genre. Birmingham displays a very believable knowledge of historical chacters and events. While in thematic terms it is not significantly different from The Guns of the South or Stirling's Nantucket books, it still makes for an interesting story for those of us who wish that 'The Final Countdown' had gone slightly differnet.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 31, 2005


    Good World War 2 book, with tiwist. Shocking how people changed from 1942 to today. Has some down time tough, not a bad read

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 2, 2005

    What about book #2?

    The first edition of this trilogy was fantastic and flowed extremely well. I can't wait for the second book. I heard rumors that it was supposed to be published in April, but I haven't been able to find any news on it. Does anyone know when it's supposed to be released?

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 8, 2005


    A terrific read. I really think it's very clever the way the author meshed old and new in a believable way; especially the characters from the past. He took the story a whole layer deeper by not only drawing a comparison between technologies but culture and attitudes as well. The frustration is waiting for the next book which is way off in April!

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 74 Customer Reviews

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