V2 by Robert Harris

This popped up for 99p and so I gave it a go, not expecting to like it much. And although I was resistant, the damn book grew on me and I have to grudgingly admit I enjoyed it.

Why was a resistant? Not because I think Harris is a bad writer (I really enjoyed The Second Sleep and have read a couple of his others) but because I felt as if this book would be a little too much weighted towards journalism/history, foregrounding its research at the expense of plot and character. I was not wrong in this exactly, but it ends up being so well done, and such an easy read, that you develop that grudging respect for it.

It’s a light read because there’s not much to it really. On the one hand/strand, a German engineer, fictional associate of Werner von Braun, beginning to feel wracked with guilt at his involvement in the V2 rocket programme; on the other, a WAAF officer working on the team trying to identify the launch sites so they can be bombed. It’s a straightforward convergence of these twin narratives, takes place over a few days of story time (with flashbacks), and was clearly put together with rapid efficiency, based on copious background reading.

These ridiculously cumbersome and unreliable terror weapons were a prize at the end of the second world war, and it does stick in the craw to think that von Braun got away clean, in spite of his involvement in the slave labour programme that produced them. All you need to know about them is that more people died making them than were ever killed by them in use. But still: space race, yeah? Ironic that current privatised space programmes are also driven by cunts.

Honestly, I’d have preferred something heftier and more espionagy, but then the author would have had to depart from recorded history perhaps more than he wanted to. As an exercise in lockdown novel composition by a consummate professional, this is impressive.

Anyway, quite good if you like that sort of thing.

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