To Wake the Giant

To Wake the Giant: A Novel of Pearl Harbor
© 2020 Jeff Shaara
528 pages

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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.

 

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Citizen, librarian, reader with a boundless wonder for the world and a curiosity about all the beings inside it.
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2 Responses to To Wake the Giant

  1. Anonymous says:

    I was looking forward to your review of this. I don’t have any of his presently. Is this a good one to start with?

    • Mmmm… that’s really hard to say, because I’ve been reading him since 2001, with long intervals between the works, and his style has varied quite a bit over the years. Originally he copied his father’s style but has since tried other approaches. I would approach him based on what you like reading about — I most prefer his early work that’s imitative of Michael Shaara’s TKA. He’s done two Civil War sets, a Mexican war solo, a Revolutionary War duo, a Great War solo, a WW2 duo, and two WW2 solos. A lot of his stuff I read pre-blog, though.

      I will say this, though…he’s known for war novels, so a novel set in peacetime may not be the best intro to him! For some reason I keep thinking of “Gone for Soldiers”, his Mexican war novel….it’s a standalone, and it’s unusual. Not one of the biggies…he mostly wrote it out of familarity with the characters, since most ACW heavies had MW experience. (Excuse the abbreviations….I am using a friend’s Macbook and the chiclet keyboard and I only barely get along.)

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