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Marching to a Faster Pace

Moon of Ice

By Brad Linaweaver 

27 Apr, 2021

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Brad Linaweaver’s 1988 Moon of Ice is a standalone alternate history novel. Moon of Ice won both the 1989 Prometheus Award and the 1992 Phoenix Award.

Years after Hitler showered a rain of atomic weapons on his foes and won WWII, an American editor is offered the opportunity of his career: publishing Goebbels’ diary, delivered courtesy of Goebbels’ daughter, Hilda. 

The world is divided between two superpowers: the Greater Reich (which rules Europe from Britain to the Urals, along with large swaths of Africa) and the United States of America. The two powers are very different. While the Nazis are busy pursuing statist goals, the United States no longer has imperial ambitions — although its corporations are free to do as they please where they please. American statist proclivities vanished after FDR was impeached for orchestrating the attack on Pearl Harbor by withholding information gleaned from broken Japanese codes. Thus, America’s current libertarian situation, where freedom, racial tolerance, and economic virility rule, and the roads are terrible.

Much of the novel focuses on Hilda’s childhood and teen years. Raised at the heart of the Greater Reich, she was for a time one of Hitler’s favourites. Later, faced with the gulf between the Reich’s propaganda and its reality, she became disillusioned with Nazism. Rejecting the Greater Reich’s narrow-minded puritanism, the young anarchist took many lovers, men and women of many races. She was able to do this without landing in prison (or worse) because she was protected by her father’s position. 

Goebbels’ son Helmuth is a true believer, unlike his cynical propagandist father and idealist sister Hilda. A proud member of Himmler’s SS, Helmuth enthusiastically embraces every element of Nazi crackpottery, from vicious racism to Hanns Hörbiger’s Welteislehre (World Ice Doctrine). More concerned with his daughter’s debauchery, Goebbels does not pay close attention to his son’s activities. This is a gross miscalculation.

Invited to Burgundy, now an SS-ruled fiefdom, Goebbels is taken prisoner. He learns that SS insiders see the Greater Reich as corrupt. Hitler’s grand vision has been betrayed. The conspirators have a bold plan to deliver purity to an unwilling world, one that will leave the world a much emptier place. 

Geneticist Richard Dietrich is key to the scheme. Brilliant and amoral, Dietrich’s traumatic experiences in World War Two have transformed him into a complete monster. He is fully aware that SS beliefs are nonsensical, but he does not care as long as they are willing to pay for his research. The SS wanted a bioweapon that would spare only the naturally blonde and blue-eyed. Gleeful at the chance to massacre a humanity he loathes, Dietrich has delivered. 

Goebbels has a minor role to play: he will be a sacrificial victim in a pagan ritual before the bioweapon is unleashed. Goebbels would prefer to live. However, what can one propagandist prisoner, immured in an SS stronghold, do to confound the genius Dietrich? 

Absolutely nothing!


Many Hitler Wins novels are police procedurals for some reason (SS-GB, Fatherland, Farthing). This book could have been another one — easy enough to imagine some unfortunate cop following a trail of crumbs to Burgundy — but the author instead opted to settle for having the Big Bad monologue at a kidnap victim. I guess that has the virtue of simplicity1.

The FDR planned Pearl Harbor stuff may be from Admiral Theobald’s The Final Secret of Pearl Harbor, of which Heinlein2 (among others) was a fan. Moon of Ice’s dedication namechecks RAH, along with a lot of other people from Isaac Asimov to Zoltan Zucco, Jr (anyone know who that is?). In any case, the Pearl Harbor material seems a pretext to have FDR impeached, the New Deal dissolved, and the American two-party system upended. This is a libertarian masturbatory exercise that plays a surprisingly small role in the book’s plot. Most of the book’s attention is devoted to Nazi Germany3.

On the plus side, the author has not fallen for the line that Nazi Germany was, for all its faults, a gleaming efficient engine. The country is fantastically corrupt, those of its leaders who are not deluded fools are cheerful hypocrites, Hitler’s big economic idea amounted to looting other nations. The Greater Reich’s successes are in spite of rather than due to its political system, the last-minute development and production of a handful of atomic bombs being a prime example. As well, the SS Hörbiger fans provide a nice example of how fanatics, when confronted with evidence that they are wrong, simply double-down; moon rockets are to the World Ice fans a heretical affront that they must sabotage. 

Although it is pretty funny that the master propagandist ends up in peril of his life thanks to excessive success in the field of brainwashing, the book is otherwise meh. If not worse. I cannot see what other people saw in this book. How did it win so many awards? In addition to the Prometheus4 and Phoenix Awards the novel won, the novella of which the novel is an expansion was nominated for a Nebula. The world-building is unconvincing, and the plot is slight, veering into melodrama towards the end. Mileage varies, I suppose. At least it was short.

Moon of Ice appears to have vanished down the Meisha Merlin Publishing rat hole and is no longer in print.

1: The author’s refusal to write a Nazi police procedural sidesteps a major problem, which is that having rejected rationality and logic, the Greater Reich is probably short on cops who solve crimes by means other than arresting the first ethnic minority they encounter.

2: Speaking of Heinlein, there is of course a reference in the text to an Admiral Heinlein, Hitler’s success somehow having reached back through time to prevent Heinlein’s TB. 

3: Although the text does take the time to draw parallels between Nazi Germany and FDR’s America, as well as pointing out that the US has spent most of its history at war with one nation or another. 

4: Moon of Ice beat (in order of rank), David’s Sling by Marc Stiegler, Falling Free by Lois McMaster Bujold, Final Circuit by Melinda M. Snodgrass, To Sail Beyond the Sunset by Robert A. Heinlein. I have not read either the Stiegler or Snodgrass, but I will grant that Moon of Ice is better than the Heinlein. Or at least less bad.