“Hello,” he said, in fluent German.
This sentence was found within the first couple of pages of Gary L. M. Martin’s latest work, Sleeping With Hitler’s Wife, and set my expectations of the novel floor low. I did not expect this nearly 600 page book to be good. And it’s not.
But it’s a spectacular train wreck that’ll keep you warm at night long after you’ve bleached your brain from reading it. This book is a thing. It’s the sort of train wreck where you record video and send to your friends so they can gasp in horror with you. It is a thing that must be experienced to fully understand. I can’t recommend anyone read this book, but I also feel like not reading it will keep people from appreciating just what a fiasco it is. So, don’t read it, and especially don’t buy it from the link below.
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First things first: the biggest elephant in the room. The titular bedding of Eva Braun is only mentioned in the first dozen of the book and is more a frame of reference to understand the world this book takes place in. In a world where time travel exists and people can visit a secured time-space in history, killing Hitler has been done to death and done so many different ways. The hottest attraction is cuckolding him by eliciting an affair with his long-time fiance. This is so common place that there are guides one can hire and guidebooks to make the gaming of her easier. Incidentally, if you were looking at the book cover and wondered why the man holding the blond was staring at the reader with a thumbs up, this is by design – pictures and recordings of visitor’s events are often kept as mementos by these time travelers.
Enter John Calle, who is visiting Eva in hopes of getting over his late fiance Marion. His approach is wildly off from what thousands of other men do, and yet it is successful. The details catch the eyes of the Continuity Service, who recruit John as a special agent in a war to keep the actual timeline outside of the theme park from being manipulated by various forces.
From this point onward, readers are treated to a flashbacks of how John Calle met and courted his fiance interspersed between his missions with the Continuity Service.
The flashbacks, for the most part, feel like rather standard romantic fare. The two meet, fall in love, deal with the fact they are in a long distance relationship and that his paramour is very shy with affection and sex, culminating with her untimely death. The physical aspect of their relationship is explored and feels realistic, if not at times a bit dry. For some reason, the author decided the best way to end many of these flashbacks was with “agent reports” that linked out of the book and to different web pages on allreaders.com. Those pages were very short replays of what had already been read, but with photos taken from the actual places the events took place in (although those events happen hundreds of years in the future from the pictures.) The author claims these are all photos he has taken in the afterword, but a Google Image Search shows many of the images were taken from official websites. The ownership of these photos isn’t really a concern of mine, though; the fact these “reports” are seen as a feature as opposed to a way to repeat what had already been said in the book is.
When the reader isn’t getting caught up with John Calle’s former love life, they’re learning about the Continuity Service’s many battles to keep the timeline pure. They face such factions as:
Black White Supremacists: Lead by a black man who wants to save white people from the stain of slavery and oppression, usually by killing black people. Worship white people in a way that actively insults any black people. Their leader does a lot of “white things” like play golf or participate in a book club. He has a wife that just wants to retire to Florida and a son that doesn’t quite get his dad’s obsession.
Temporal Social Justice Warriors: Lead by a Tri-racial Transgender lesbian, they have plans to right the wrongs of society like ensuring Mexicans get free healthcare at white tax payer’s expenses (this is the designed goal of the group, not my commentary) and enslaving white people to teach them a lesson about those that they would have enslaved. Lots of infighting. Leader uses the “sharing of sexual equity” to essentially rape any of the women on his team that he wants. For those who want to call me out on it, while the character identifies as a woman he refers to himself as a he as does the writer.
The Luddites: This time wants to make the world closer to nature by ruining technology. Their most ambitious plot is arguably using the 1996 Common Decency Act to ban pornography, effectively making the internet unused and by proxy keeping the world unglobalized. They also go after the Wright Brothers. This faction has a weird sub-plot about a “quad” romance going sour and the fall out of that.
Goodlifes: Maniacs that want to destroy humanity as it is known to make “the timeline pure.” Seen as irredeemably crazy, but there’s a lot more going on under the hood than is initially mentioned. The only faction to use multiple of the same people, taken from different timelines.
Libertarians Freedom Riders: Pretty chill dudes. Just want to overthrow the One World Government. They are only narrowly beaten in each encounter. John Calle really sympathizes with them, especially their leader. Slight spoilers, they’re actually the closest thing to the good guys in this whole story.
While not a faction per se, it should be noted that the religion of Islam is represented in a caricature known as the Followers of the Blood Religion; Muhammad is replaced with Laquinta. Everyone who follows this faith, regardless the major faction they may belong to when they fight themselves, is a suicide bombing terrorist with a curved sword they’re ready to use to behead. It comes off less as a racist caricature and more as an overwrought one. There’s a scenario where the “creator” of the religion (one Khalid Mustafa Hussein Al Saddiq) is asked a bunch of questions to quell the divide between the two major factions following Laquinta which addresses such things as “how young are girls allowed to be brides.”
A lot of the humor is in the strange situations that John Calle finds himself in, and to an extent the way his leadership chooses to “correct” the timeline. For example, the Black White Supremacists attempt to ensure slavery never happens in America. Why? Because it’s a tarnish on poor white people, who have to suffer under the knowledge of what they’ve done. The solution to the problem, of course, is to convince Africans to sell slaves to each other and use them to mine gold. So John Calle and company repeatedly bomb the gold mines until they give up. Later, the Temporal Social Justice Warriors decide to help the Vietnamese attack America directly, encouraging them to march on California which accepts them with open arms. This is remedied not by stopping it before it can happen, but playing up the failures and mitigating the successes in the Vietnamese media so that the anti-war agenda takes root. Much later in the book, there’s an attempt by the Luddites to sink the Titanic, but it turns out that icebergs can’t actually sink ships so the antagonists bring over a U-Boat and torpedo the thing and then turn a chain gun on survivors. The solution to this scenario, it turns out, is to save the 40 wealthiest on the boat so that industrial progress doesn’t take a turn for the worse.
It becomes clearer as the book goes on that the world this is taking place in and it’s specific history does not equally mirror our own, and later it becomes clear that things are not at all as they seem. I’d like to appreciate this, but there’s something to be said for how the author plays fast with his own in-universe rules. Time travel can only go so far back, until of course it’s needed to go further back and then there’s a way to make it happen. It’s a bad idea to “loop” in on one’s self to stop something before it happens, even as multiple characters end up doing this. This was only a slight annoyance for me, but I imagine many hard sci-fi fans will find this concerning.
Looking back at my notes (and holy hell I took way too many of them) I feel I have two major complaints with the book. The first is that the writing style, while rather classic and reminiscent of pulp fiction, tends to draw on and feels inconsistent. It starts off strong with some really amazing and god awful innuendos, and then they… only show up periodically. The sex scenes are surprisingly varied, but are described in a way that sometimes feels tired. In a shorter bit of fiction it might not be as noticeable, but when dealing with a book that’s almost 600 pages it becomes a bit tedious.
The second is that it’s hard to tell where parody of American history and current events ends and cruel caricature and malicious belief begins. I personally feel that nothing is sacred, but there’s a bit of a jump between, say, “the founding fathers sure loved to bugger preteen boys” and “in a world where all it takes to be a transgender individual is to declare it, wouldn’t it be hilarious and in some ways fitting if an underprivileged white kid claimed to be a black woman for his own gain” and, as an example, “liberals only want to do weed and tax things to death” and “Mexicans are only coming across the border because they want a bunch of stuff for free and the only way to stop them is to genetically engineer predators that are keyed in to their unique spicy sent.” Often I struggled to tell if the author was trying to be funny, provocative, or share his political opinions through veiled satire. A lot of the scenarios in this book do a very poor job of finding a balance of attempting to challenge the reader; instead, it comes off as just slightly more elaborate than pointing at someone and saying “hey, look at this retard!” The fact that the author, in his epilogue, all but confirms his wish to fight the “Cultural Marxism” he sees prevalent in the real world is all the more telling.
In a world of mediocre science fiction novels with meaningless sex and forgettable characters, Gary L. M. Martin certainly knows how to stand out, I’ll give him that. That said, in spite of all the truly offensive content and portrayals of minorities, and even with all the strange and unusual scenarios that John Calle finds himself, I ultimately made it to the end of the book just feeling glad it was done and over with. I felt less like I had enjoyed myself and more like I had finished running a sluggish marathon. The heavy handed nature that a lot of the material was handled kind of wore me down.
But I’ll also probably never forget this book either, which I can’t say for a lot of the books I read last year.
I don’t know. It’s not a good book. Don’t read it. And especially don’t click the link above to do so.