GrogHeads Reviews Tidal Effects from Andrew Heller
Airboy reviews Heller’s follow-up to Gray Tide in the East ~
Avery Abernethy, 03 August 2016
Tidal Effects is the sequel to Gray Tide in the East. In the previous book the Kaiser orders the German Army in 1914 to respect Belgium’s neutrality after Imperial Russia and France declare war on Germany. The British Empire never enters World War 1. Germany and Austria-Hungary crush Russia and annex large portions of European Russia including all of Poland, the Ukraine and the Baltics. France is bled white trying to attack in unfavorable terrain. Germany gives France favorable peace terms taking several relatively useless colonies including Martinique in the Caribbean Sea. At the end of Gray Tide in the East Germany is the dominant land power in Europe.
Tidal Effects contains two novelettes: High Tide and Rip Tide. In High Tide several members of the Imperial German Foreign Service and a high ranking Naval officer manage to start building a substantial naval base in Martinique. Substantial progress on this naval base is accomplished without the knowledge of the Kaiser and the rest of the Imperial Cabinet. The USA learns of the base and must decide if they want to enforce the Monroe Doctrine. Tidal Effects includes basics of naval espionage, isolationist politics of the USA early in the 20th century and foreign policy. The central conflict centers on the ability of the US President to get enough political support to keep the hugely powerful Germany from getting a foothold in North America without starting a major naval war. The Kaiser is maddened that his subordinates put him in this position but also wants to maximize the political and military gains possible from this situation. The entire story is plausible given the military, economic, political and foreign policy situation in this alternate history.
Rip Tide is a much better story. The greedy Kaiser launches an espionage and subversion campaign on the Hungarian part of the Austrian-Hungarian Empire. The Kaiser’s goal is to weaken Austria-Hungary to the point where the German Army can gain control of additional slices of Poland and the Southern Ukraine. Emperor Carl of Austria-Hungary identifies the German threat early, but knows his foreign service is riddled with double-agents loyal to the Kaiser.
Most Americans have little understanding of the Balkans and the political, military, and cultural situation that arose after the Ottoman Empire’s European holdings were lost in the 1800s. For example, there were multiple wars in the Balkans between 1900 and 1913 which saw territory change hands between various countries in the region. I’ve read several books on Balkan history from the collapse of the Ottoman European Holdings and the various wars in the Balkans at the start of the 20th Century. I’ve also been fortunate to travel on a long Danube River cruise in the Balkans and seen many of the sights, monuments, and countries in the region.
Heller weaves a highly plausible scenario of Hungarian partisans with the backing of Germany split Hungary from Austria. Although Austria-Hungary is “one country,” it is actually two or more countries unified only under the titular head of the Emperor. The Emperor controls the military and foreign policy and little else outside of Austria. Hungary has its own parliament, school system, culture, means of oppressing minorities and other policies quite different from Austria. Heller’s understanding of this military, cultural and internal policy differences is dead on the money although it will seem to be a fantasy land to less informed readers.
…if you like your alt-history to be compact, compatible with the technological and military realities of the time, and plausible you will love this book and its predecessor
I don’t want to go into detail of the plot or outcomes of either book to avoid spoiling the read. But I can provide some guidance for potential readers of this book. First, I strongly recommend reading Gray Tide in the East before Tidal Effects. If you like Gray Tide you will almost certainly like Tidal Effects. Also, understanding the historical departure point in Gray Tide is necessary for the reader to fully enjoy this book.
Second, Andrew Heller writes very tersely and does not veer off into tangential areas. Heller focuses on grand strategy and major players. Minor actors only come up when needed to show the tactical details of the strategic execution. Major world leaders and those critical to strategic decision making or the execution of the strategy are Heller’s sole focus. Heller’s ideas are very well developed, but he does not focus on the “little people.” For example, if you love the alt-history of Henry Turtledove because you love reading in extensive detail about the lives of relatively unimportant players, then this series is probably not for you. But if you like your alt-history to be compact, compatible with the technological and military realities of the time, and plausible you will love this book and its predecessor.
I’ve read Gray Tide in the East multiple times. I thoroughly enjoyed this sequel. This is some of the best alt-military history out there for World War 1 era. The first book in the series is less than $5 for the Amazon ebook.