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Nemesis follows Hastings' usual approach of bringing together first-hand accounts by combatants with highly informed analysis of why the politicians and generals chose the strategic options they did. Having listened to this I felt a little ashamed of quite how little I knew about the Pacific campaign despite having relatives who fought in it but of course all of those surprising details only serve to make this a more interesting listen.
In brief, Nemesis offers a large canvas picture which begins by showing how the Japanese military became dominant in domestic policy and the extent to which it fostered a culture of pitiless brutality to those it conquered. We then move on to a slightly revisionist take on the military significance of Pearl Harbour and the Allied response which went from shambolic to under-powered on the part of the British while the Americans did the majority of the heavy lifting through the mobilisation of awesome naval forces and the bravery of infantry who had to battle insanely committed Japanese soldiers across a sequence of inhospitable pacific islands. Finally of course the USAF settled things by dropping the atomic bomb.
Hastings manages to cram in first hand details of ground fighting; thoughtful analyses of the planning and execution of the dropping of the atomic bomb; a fascinating picture of the way Chinese resistance fighters under leaders like Mao played off allied and Japanese forces as they sought the best position for post-war dominance in China and an interesting summary of the way in which victory distorted the US military's view of how it should fight wars in the future. That's a lot of ground to cover but Hastings is such a talented writer that Nemesis rattles along.
5 of 5 people found this review helpful
Nemesis: The Battle for Japan, 1944-45 is my first book I've read by Max Hastings. I was immediately attracted to this work because it seemed much rarer to find books written about the Pacific war in contrast to the numerous volumes available on the European theatre of the second world war.
This is a truly tremendous piece of detailed and painstakingly researched work and the scope and sheer levels of detail are amazing. The narrative is often viscerally illustrated with many personal accounts of those that fought, won and lost this epic conflict and paints a vivid picture of what life was like for those embroiled in the events that shaped the Pacific war. There is just so much in this book that it merits reading a second time and probably even a third.
The harsh and extremely brutal and cruel nature of war is often described in the words of those that were there with Hastings providing the connective narrative that weaves all this together in a giant tapestry. What appealed to me was that this book gave much needed attention to the Japanese perspective that is so often lacking in many books covering war and so it is fascinating to read so much from the enemy as it was back then. Such balance is rare when most works like this focus heavily on the plight and stories of the victors and tend to forget or give very little over to the vanquished.
A word on the narration; This book was also my first experience of Cameron Stewart and I must say that his delivery and competence is second to none. He also has just the right voice to narrate such a work and really makes an excellent job of this epic work.
Further, "Nemesis" describes in detail the almost forgotten Russian campaign against the Japanese toward the end of the war and really adds a lot of detail that many readers like myself may have known very little about.
A superb work with massive scope and detail that anyone interested in the war in the Pacific must read.
4 of 4 people found this review helpful
Where does Nemesis rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?
This is at the top of WWII histories.
Any additional comments?
"Nemesis" is an example of why Max Hastings is the foremost WWII historian. In a CSPAN Book TV interview he said that "World War II was the greatest event in human history." Considering its far-reaching effects--continuing through our era-- he has a strong case for this statement.A strength of the book is its many stories of ordinary people. One gets details and a sense of realism that is better than histories just talking about generals and politicians. Hastings humanizes the story. These realities resonate with me, a combat veteran of Vietnam.
I feel the criticisms of the narrator are wrong. Most Americans are intolerant of non-American English. This American thinks Stewart Cameron's British accent is quite easy to follow and clearly carries the story once you tune-in to the British cadence. It's really not that hard. Americans make a big deal out it. We should get used to the kind of English spoken by the majority of the English-speaking world. The author is, after all, British : -)Hastings has a British viewpoint, of course. But this is good for Americans. We tend to think we won the war single handedly.
Hastings is judgmental about key figures all around. This is one of his strengths, what takes "Nemesis" beyond ordinary histories. He says that some British generals were glad when they heard that their Orde Wingate was killed--that he wouldn't be around to get more soldiers killed by goofy heroics. His criticisms of MacArthur seem to sting some American readers. But even American soldiers at the time didn't think highly of MacArthur. A friend of mine who fought his way onto several Pacific islands told me that GI's called him "Dugout Doug," for his propensity to be at photo-ops only after areas were secured.
Hastings strong opinions on Japanese barbarity are another area that may offend current sensibilities. But all the old Pacific War vets I have known would agree that they were dealing with an enemy quite different than even the Nazis. One called the Japanese regime a death cult.
17 of 18 people found this review helpful
I do not understand how any audible book producer, can allow the reader to mispronounce so many names and locations. I found the subject matter and the manner presented by the books author interesting and I think, if I had read, rather than listened to the book, I would found the experience more enlightening. In listening to the book, I found my self cringing every time a name was butchered. For example, the narrators referring to the last Japanese Battle Ship "Yamato" as "Yama-Toes" and then listening to the narrator mispronounce the ships name many-many time during the discussion of April 1945 action, almost caused me to send this book to the cyber trash can.
14 of 16 people found this review helpful