What I gleaned about the story: Two German scientists try to assassinate Hitler by luring him into their experimental time machine. But to their great frustration, the damned thing actually works.
Find this book on Amazon.
Analysis: Things certainly start off with a jolt. It’s April of 1945, the bombs are falling, and we’re in an underground bunker with Adolph and friends. There’s an explosion nearby, and we get: Hitler fell to the ground, but, seemingly unhurt, he dusted himself down and got up again.
The facts are all fine, but he dusted himself off and then got up? That creates a ludicrous image for me, of a man lying on the ground, patting the dust off his clothes, and then rolling over, getting himself dirty again, and standing up. This comedic feeling in the middle of scene that is trying to be at least somewhat serious and frantic, felt entirely out of place.
Analysis: Nervous about getting into the time machine, Hitler says: “I don’t want all my insides on the outside, like what happened with Wulf.” The scientist then replies: “…it is, of course, regrettable that one of the German Shepherd dogs… suffered like that.”
This felt completely unnatural to me. Hitler has just demonstrated that he knows the dog’s name, so he has no need to be told what kind of dog it was. Why does the scientist make a point of citing the breed?
Unfortunately, that was just one of three or four details in that paragraph that seemed to be there for the reader’s benefit alone, and that creates a problem. For me to slip into a world, it needs to feel natural, but two characters talking for the benefit of somebody they can’t see and shouldn’t know anything about feels entirely wrong. It shatters the fictive bubble—the pretense that the characters are living their lives blissfully unaware that they are being observed.
Analysis: Several passages at the beginning of the scene give us glimpses of Hitler’s inner state of mind, so it seems that he is the POV character. But near the bottom of the first page, he steps into the time machine and vanishes, yet the action continues as the two scientists go on to argue about what to do next. This came as a jarring change to me, as I thought the camera was on Hitler’s shoulder. When it suddenly seemed to be on the scientist’s shoulder, I got whiplash.
Details: Despite the problems I had staying immersed in the prose, the actual premise of the opening scene was quite clever. In Hitler’s desperate final hours, two scientists try to kill him by luring him into their bogus time machine. Unfortunately, the damned thing actually works.
Take the Pepsi Challenge: Want to know if my own writing measures up? Try the free sample on one of my books or short stories and decide for yourself.