To Wake the Giant: A Novel of Pearl Harbor
© 2020 Jeff Shaara
In To Wake the Giant, Jeff Shaara returns to World War 2, this time with a curveball. Unlike most of his other novels, Wake the Giant follows three individuals in peacetime, covering the year before the attack at Pearl Harbor. War does arrive, though, as the story culminates in that quiet Sunday morning in which the US Pacific Fleet was savagely ambushed. Shara uses three viewpoint characters to explore life as a sailor aboard the USS Arizona (Hospital Apprentice Biggs), follow the Japanese planning and execution of the attack (Yamamoto), and to lurk in the Oval Office as FDR and the Secretary of State Cordell Hull weigh their priorities and wonder what, if anything, the Japanese are up to. Once the attack on Pearl begins in earnest, a few more minor viewpoint characters enter the picture, though there’s not as much time spent on the day itself as I’d expected. Also unexpected, our main viewpoint character Biggs didn’t perish, although he certainly gave it the old college try, what with being burned, lacerated, thrown off the ship, and subjected to infection and maggots. The same cannot be said of other characters throughout the book, as you might expect with a lot of the action set on the Arizona. All three viewpoints are hugely sympathetic, even Yamamoto who is given the sorry task of plotting a strike against the United States — the first blow in a war he is almost certain will lead to Japan’s ruin. I enjoyed this largely to experience life aboard the Arizona; I’ve been aboard few WW2 museum ships (Alabama, Texas, and Kidd), and find the WW2 navy particularly compelling to read about. It was good to read Shaara again.