Volume 15, Number 01, Winter, 1997


By Piers Anthony

(pulpless.com 0-380-78108-5 $5.99, 249pp) 1996.
Reviewed by Anders Monsen
January 1997

Readers of Prometheus will already have read Brad Linaweaver's introduction to this novel [Prometheus, Vol. 14, No. 4, 1996 reprinted the intro in its entirety], and therefore already know the basic elements of this book.

Volk centers around three main characters, whom we meet in mid-1930s America. Lane Dowling, an all-American college boy and flyer; Ernst Best, a staunch Nazi from Germany who defends each and every aspect of Nazi policies, including the view of a Master Race; and Quality Smith, Lane’s fiancé and a Quaker fastidious in her pacifism.

The three see themselves and each other as extraordinary people, different from almost everybody else. Indeed, they are consciously drawn to others who think them same.

World War II drives the trio apart. Ernst is recalled to Germany as that nation prepares to take on the world. Lane trains as a pilot and heads to Canada since the US is not yet part of the conflict, and this divides him and Quality. She cannot accept his participation in aggression. Quality goes to Spain as a volunteer with the Friends Service Council to deliver food and supplies to villagers caught in that country’s civil war.

Volk sketches the history and time in incredible, rich detail. The style is smooth and compelling, as are the three characters. Each is strongly sympathetic, with unique qualities that set them apart from the crowd.

We are thrust into the preparation and carnage of World War II, from both sides of the conflict. Yet even in this war the three manage to find each other at various places and times. A love triangle emerges among them, with possible dire consequences. SS Officer Ernst, on a secret mission for the Germans to Spain, encounters Quality. When they part he knows a change between them has occurred, one that cannot be undone. The situation is complex, as back in Germany is a girl who desperately seeks to marry Ernst; he is non-committal, resigned to the inevitable.

Quality, on the other hand, is captured by Germans as she tries to smuggle a Jew across the border between France and Spain. As the war rages around her, she languishes in a camp. As Germany declares war on the United States, Ernest smuggles Quality out of the camp, and to his apartment in Berlin. The two declare their love for each other. Quality’s presence must be covert to protect her.

Through the bitter end of Germany’s defeat we see the actions of these individuals fighting to stay alive, discovering their love for each other, they grow and change and realize all is not as it first seems. Time changes everything.

Volk, I believe, is of strong interest to libertarians for several reasons. The characters in the novel are quite individualistic. The book cannot find a publisher on the regular market, despite Anthony’s reputation as a consistent bestseller. This is a serious book, in contrast to his humorous fantasies. Perhaps publishers are not daring enough to sell this novel, as it does not stick to the party line that all Nazis are inhuman beasts. One might wonder if instead of a Nazi main character, Anthony drew a sympathetic Communist character. Would publication be easier? Or, maybe there are other reasons.

Anthony commits in the last chapter what many readers might view as unforgivable sin. He portrays an American death camp. As the Allies marched through Germany they rounded up prisoners of war and placed these, in the tens of thousands, in guarded camps. There was little food or water in these camps, and many innocent people died. Anthony feels strongly enough about this fact to add a statement about this fact in an afterword, where he defends his point of view. Anthony thinks the guilty on all side should face their guilt. He quotes one of his sources in that “approximately three quarters of a million Germans were killed in American captivity, and one quarter million in French captivity. Only the British acted with decency in this respect.”

J. Neil Schulman, by publishing Volk through his electronic printing press, pulpless.com, has added tremendous value to the literary field. He has shown a bravery that other publishers lack, due perhaps to the controversial final chapter. Volk is already a very popular download, and reasonably priced. You can download the novel from www.pulpless.com. Some negative points include the sudden shifts in point of view among characters, sometimes too abruptly. Also, ironically, even the electronic medium is not free of the odd typographical error. An added bonus to the book is an extensive bibliography of Anthony’s other works.

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