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Designated Targets: A Novel of the Axis of Time par [Birmingham, John]
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Designated Targets: A Novel of the Axis of Time Format Kindle

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Longueur : 448 pages Word Wise: Activé Composition améliorée: Activé
Page Flip: Activé Langue : Anglais

Descriptions du produit



Lordy, thought the boy. It’s a miracle for sure.

He was seven and a half years old—the man of the house, really, what with his daddy being away in Como, and he had never seen anything like the fearful wonder of the newly chiseled monument.

here lies jesse garon presley.

deeply beloved of his mother gladys, father vernon,

and brother elvis.

a soul so pure, the good lord could not bear

to be apart from him.

born jan. 8, 1935,

taken unto god jan. 8, 1935.

Despite the unseasonable heat of the evening, gooseflesh ran up his thin arms as he read the words again. Whippoorwills and crickets trilled their amazement in the sweet, warm air. With a pounding heart, the boy inched forward and muttered hoarsely, “Jesse, are you here?”

The stone was cut from blindingly white marble that fairly glowed in the setting sun. The inscription had been inlaid with real gold—he was almost certain of that. He ran his fingers over the words and the cold, hard stone, as if afraid to discover that they weren’t real.

It must have cost a king’s ransom . . .

An enormous bunch of store-bought flowers had been placed upon a patch of freshly broken earth that still lay at the foot of the monument. Hundreds of tiny beads of water covered the petals and caught the last golden rays of daylight.

He dropped down on his knees as if he were in church and stared at the impossible vision for many minutes, heedless of the dirt he was getting on his old dungarees. He remained virtually motionless until one hand reached out and his fingers again brushed the surface of the headstone.

“Oh, my,” he whispered.

Then Elvis Aaron Presley leapt to his feet and ran so fast that he raised a trail of dust as he sprinted down the gravel lane, away from the pauper’s section of the Priceville Cemetery, a-hollerin’ for his mama.

“He’ll probably get his ass whupped, the poor little bastard.” Slim Jim Davidson smiled as he said it, peering over the sunglasses he had perched on his nose.

“Why?” asked the woman who was sitting next to him in the rear seat of the gaudy red Cadillac. You didn’t see babies like this every day. Slim Jim had seen to the detailing himself. The paint job, the bison leather seats, everything.

“For telling lies,” he said. “Headstones don’t just appear like that, you know. They’re gonna think he made it up, and when he won’t take it back, there’ll be hell to pay.”

The woman seemed to give the statement more thought than it was really due. “I suppose so,” she said after a few seconds.

Slim Jim could tell she didn’t approve. They were all the same, these people. They’d bomb an entire city into rubble without batting an eye, but they looked at you like you were some sort of hoodlum if you even suggested raising your hand against a snot-nosed kid. Or a smart-mouth dame, for that matter.

And this O’Brien, she was a helluva smart-mouth dame.

She’d kept her trap shut, though, while they’d been watching the Presley kid. In fact, she seemed to be fascinated by him. They’d been waiting in the Caddy up on Old Saltillo Road for nearly an hour before he showed. Long enough for Slim Jim to wonder if they were pissing their time up against a wall. But the kid did show, just as his cousin said he would. And he’d heard O’Brien’s stifled gasp when the small figure first appeared, walking out of a stand of trees about two hundred yards away.

“It’s him, all right,” she said. “Damned if it’s not.”

Slim Jim had grabbed the contract papers and made to get out of the car right then and there. He’d had enough of sitting still. His butt had fallen asleep, and he was downright bored.

But O’Brien shook her head. “Not here.”

He’d bristled at that. His temper had frayed during the long wait. Long enough even to make him feel some sympathy for the cops who’d had to stake him out once or twice. But he took her “advice” because it was always worth taking.

Her advice had cost him a goddamn packet, too, over the course of their relationship. But along the way, Slim Jim Davidson had learned that you had to spend money to make it. Problem was that up until recently, he didn’t have no money to spend. None of his own, anyway. And spending other people’s money had sent him to the road gangs.

Mississippi was a powerful reminder of those days. The air tasted the same as it had in Alabama, thick and sweet and tending toward rotten. The faces they’d driven past in town had brought back some unpleasant memories, too. Hard, lean faces with deep lines and dark pools for eyes. The sort of uncompromising faces a man might expect to see on Judgment Day. They’d sure looked that way to Slim Jim when they trooped in from the jury room.

Well, that felt like a thousand years ago. Now he could buy and sell that fucking jury. And the judge. And his crooked jailers. And the whole goddamned state of Alabama, if he felt like it.

Well, maybe not the whole state. But he was getting there. This Caddy was bigger and more comfortable than some of the flophouses he’d crashed in during the Depression. He had an apartment in an honest-to-goddamned brownstone overlooking Central Park back in New York, and a house designed by some faggot architect overlooking the beach at Santa Monica, out in L.A. He had stocks and bonds and a big wad of folding money he liked to carry in his new buffalo-hide wallet—just so’s he could pull it out and snap the crisp new bills between his fingers when he needed to remind himself that he wasn’t dreaming.

Hell, he was so rich now that when those C-notes lost their snap, he could give them away and get some new ones.

Not that he ever did, of course. Ms. O’Brien would kill him. And she was more than capable of it. No doubt about that.

She’d insisted that he pick up the Santa Monica house as a long-term investment, too, even though he thought it was kind of down-market, given his newly acquired status.

“You can stay at the Ambassador if you don’t like rubbing shoulders with your old cell mates down on the piers,” she’d said. “Believe me, Santa Monica will come back, and you need to diversify your asset base. Waterfront property is always a sure bet.”

Yes, indeed, and Slim Jim was fond of sure bets. After all, they’d made him richer than God. They’d also delivered him a conga line of horny babes, a small army of his own hired muscle, and the slightly scary Ms. O’Brien.

Thinking about the slightly scary Ms. O’Brien sitting next to him there in the Caddy, however, led naturally to thinking about the slightly scary Ms. O’Brien sliding her body over his in a king-sized hotel bed. But that was a dangerous line of thought, he knew. Because Ms. O’Brien wasn’t inclined to get anywhere near a bed with Slim Jim Davidson, naked or not.

He’d tried feeling her up once, and she’d nearly broken his arm for it. She’d snapped an excruciating wristlock on him without even breaking a sweat, no doubt a party trick she’d picked up back when she was a captain in the Eighty-second MEU. And she’d kept him locked up, gasping for breath and nearly fainting away, while she explained to him the facts of life:

One, she was his employee, not his girlfriend.

Two, she would be his employee only for as long as she needed to be, and she would never be his girlfriend.

Three, she could kick his scrawny ass black and blue without bothering to lace up her boots.

And four, she . . .

“Mr. Davidson?”

Slim Jim jumped, feeling guilty and worried that she might have figured out what he was thinking. But no, luckily she was just dragging him out of his slightly bored daze.

“Elvis has left the cemetery,” she announced. She said it in a singsong way, and it seemed to amuse her more than it should have. But Slim Jim had given up trying to figure her out.

“Let’s go over it one last time, just to be sure,” she said, pulling out a flexipad.

“Oh, please,” he begged. “Let’s not.”

O’Brien ignored him, and his shades suddenly flickered into life. Windows opened up on the lenses and seemed to float in the air in front of him. Some carried photographs of the boy they’d just seen. Others were full of words. Small words in large type. She’d learned not to burden him with too much text.

Bitch thinks she’s so goddamned smart . . .

Slim Jim sighed, and read through the briefing notes again. Some of his reluctance was for show, though. He never really got tired of the amazing gadgets these guys had brought with them.

“Elvis Aaron Presley, age eight and a half. Mother’s name, Gladys. Father’s name, Vernon,” he recited. “Dead brother, Jesse. Attends school at East Tupelo Consolidated. Father jailed for fraud. Asshole tried to ink a four-dollar check into forty . . .”

O’Brien shot him a warning look, but he hid behind the shades, pretending he couldn’t see her.

“Daddy’s out now, away in Como, Mississippi, building a POW camp for the government. Mama takes in sewing when she can get it. Local yokels call ’em white trash behind their backs . . .”

Slim Jim laughed out l...

Revue de presse

Praise for Weapons of Choice
First book in the Axis of Time

“[A] weapons-grade military techno-thriller . . . It’s like a Clive Cussler novel fell into a transporter beam with a Stephen Ambrose history, and they came out all fused together.”

“High-tech intrigue and suspense similar to the works of Tom Clancy.”
–Library Journal

Détails sur le produit

  • Format : Format Kindle
  • Taille du fichier : 1194 KB
  • Nombre de pages de l'édition imprimée : 448 pages
  • Pagination - ISBN de l'édition imprimée de référence : 0345457145
  • Editeur : Del Rey (25 octobre 2005)
  • Langue : Anglais
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Commentaires client les plus utiles sur (beta) HASH(0x8cf90060) étoiles sur 5 109 commentaires
43 internautes sur 44 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
HASH(0x8bd56c48) étoiles sur 5 Great sequel! 19 avril 2006
Par Tim F. Martin - Publié sur
Format: Broché
_Designated Targets_ by John Birmingham is the excellent follow up to his earlier alternate history science fiction novel, _Weapons of Choice_, a novel that began with the basic premise that a U.S.-led multinational naval task force from the 21st century is accidentally and suddenly transported to the Pacific right in the middle of the Battle of Midway.

As most of this fleet came into the possession of the Allied countries (basically the United States), one might think that the advanced weaponry, ships, and trained personnel from the year 2021 would enable the Allied powers to quickly defeat the Axis, as certainly anything they had could outclass anything Germany and Japan possessed in 1942. Quite the opposite occurs, as the Axis, at the heights of its power at the time the future fleet arrived (an event now referred to as the Transition), redoubles its efforts to conquer the world, benefiting from it own captured weapons, ships, and personnel from the future as well as the wealth of information in the computer databases of those ships, decades of analysis and detailed histories of the Second World War and its aftermath, revealing the results of battles, the identities of spies and traitors, failed weapon systems, successful weapon systems that should have been better supported, etc. The Soviet Union and Germany quickly declare a ceasefire with one another (Stalin thankful for the break from the Nazi onslaught and eager to begin work to avoid being the target of later German aggression as well as seeking to avoid eventual Soviet defeat in the Cold War by the United States) and both Germany and Japan rapidly develop and execute radically different plans from what they did in our timeline.

The conflict in the book is not just military in nature, as the officers, sailors, marines, and others of the multinational task force continually come into conflict with the culture and politics of the era. Admiral Phillip Kolhammer, as Task Force Commander, is forced into politics and administration in areas and on a scale he never dreamed possible as he became the governor of a new district set up in California to house the men and women of his task force, the Special Administrative Zone (or just the "Zone"), an area that not only allowed Kolhammer's people to train contemporary personnel and set up factories to rapidly accelerate the advance of contemporary technology, gearing up to provide everything from modern medicine and medical techniques to assault rifles to missiles to jet aircraft but also to be a region of the country that was under 2021 law, not 1942 law. The latter point became particularly important in the book as while political allies, personal friendships, and romantic relationships developed between "twenty-firsts" (people from the future) and "'temps" (contemporary people; twenty-first term for people not from the future), enmities developed too. Some saw political threats with the rising importance of Kolhammer and his other officers in the Roosevelt Administration, his clashes with FBI director J. Edgar Hoover, or the threat posed to some corporations that were now producing suddenly woefully obsolete items, like piston-engine fighters. Others regarded the culture of the Zone as a threat, seeing it as morally degenerate and reprehensible due to their contemporary views on homosexuality and premarital sex (or at least with their assumptions about what a twenty-first did in the bedroom). Still others didn't like the mix of races and genders in the fleet, nor Kolhammer's and others refusal to recognize segregation as well as obvious and not so obvious aid to support equality for African-Americans and Hispanic-Americans, nor his vehement opposition to Japanese internment (or of internment for those Japanese and German soldiers serving in the fleet, seen by opponents to Kolhammer instead as dangerous "enemy aliens"). While Kolhammer and others became heroes to some, leading several outside the Zone to begin tenuous steps towards ending racial segregation and gender bias, others saw him as a great threat. According to one of the characters in the book, these enemies saw the future (in the Zone) and it scared them.

The action in the book is worldwide, with considerable parts of the book taking place in the United Kingdom, Germany, Hawaii, and Australia as well as the mainland United States.

I found the many ideas explored along the way very interesting, such as the nature of copyright and patent protection for material from the future for instance. Who owns the rights to books, music, and movies say from the 1980s or the 2010s; if the company exists in 1942 that is one thing, but what if no identifiable ancestor to the copyright or patent holder exists? What happens to famous couples, fated in the other timeline to meet, now reading about how they met; do they meet at all now? Or political chances for people reading that one day they will become president?

I also enjoyed the large cast of major and minor characters that were celebrities, some pretty obvious choices, like General MacArthur, while others quite surprising.

I have no real complaints about the book, though I felt some scenes were a bit gory, the description of the deaths of some individuals a bit too graphic for my tastes. Overall I found the pace quite brisk and the story engaging and exciting; it kept me up the last several nights ("just ten more pages" I would say to myself, again and again before going to bed quite late). I look forward to the next book.
42 internautes sur 47 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
HASH(0x8bd56c9c) étoiles sur 5 No sophmore slump 31 octobre 2005
Par MarkK - Publié sur
Format: Broché
As an avid fan of the first volume of the "Axis of Time" series, I was among the many fans looking forward eagerly to the release of the next installment. For me this book was well worth the wait, as John Birmingham avoids the middle-volume slump all too typical of trilogies. Picking up the action four months after the end of the first book, he shows how the impact of the accidental travelers from the future has dramatically changed the course of history - the Japanese have invaded Australia, the Germans and the Soviets have signed a cease-fire, and a vast industrial park is blossoming on the outskirts of Los Angeles as the Allies begin to leapfrog their technological development.

What makes this book so enjoyable for me is Birmingham's imaginativeness. After reading the first volume, I wondered where he would take events from there. The answer is in surprising directions. On one level, it involves posing intriguing questions: What would the Japanese fighting World War II do with knowledge from the future? The Germans? The Americans? Birmingham's answers break away from the predominantly military focus of the first volume to areas that might be unexpected but entirely plausible. The result makes for an enormously entertaining read and one that kept me enthralled to the last page. The only problem I had when I finished was the same that many others have expressed - the prospect of having to wait for the final volume of the series to be written. As frustrating as it may be, I'm willing to wait as long as it takes for Birmingham to produce a conclusion so satisfying.
22 internautes sur 26 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
HASH(0x8ba4c0f0) étoiles sur 5 On a hat-trick 1 novembre 2005
Par John Byron - Publié sur
Format: Broché
John Birmingham is a bastard.

I spotted Designated Targets just before its official release at a bookshop in Brisbane airport, appropriately enough on my way to a meeting in the Forgan Smith building at the University of Queensland (the building features prominently about mid-way through). I had thoroughly enjoyed Weapons of Choice: World War 2.1 (as it's subtitled down under), and had hoped for another good read - airport style - to keep me entertained in the downtime that you inevitably get in a busy week spent away from home on business.

Well, what happened was that 2.2 redefined my downtime over the next couple of days - 'downtime' was suddenly comprised of the compact slices of time where I tried to do all the trivial things not related to avidly reading this gripping yarn - work, sleep, drive, ablute, etc.

This wretched, brilliant book completely ruined that week, and for that I am deeply grateful to its stupidly talented author.

Designated Targets is absolutely great stuff - all of what we love and a bit more besides. Clever narrative, suspenseful design, well controlled scenario, thorough research, insightful invention, perceptive psychology, great dialogue, and terrific action. All in all, accursedly unputfckendownable.

Birmingham handles the action genre as an adept - he obviously reads widely in it, and has paid attention to a range of movie genres as well (westerns, war flicks, Hong Kong martial arts, gangster movies, Arnie, straight out action, etc.). Clearly he has also taken a lot of inspiration from the different strands of alternate history, speculative SF and psychodrama that populate contemporary culture, both written and cinematic.

There are amusing and perceptive commentaries on the past. Australian readers will enjoy the mischief of seeing the Brisbane Line become realised in policy, and Prime Minister John Curtin's relationship with MacArthur is well drawn, particularly read against John Edwards's recent book on the Labor war-time PM, as well as David Day's excellent biography. J. Edgar Hoover camping it up in a kimono is hilarious, but also a sobering embodiment of the righteous hypocrisy of censorious autocrats everywhere.

Much more chilling is the cool precision with which Birmingham imagines the treatment handed out by the totalitarian dictators to those that history has exposed as less-than-impeccably loyal to their doomed regimes. There is perhaps room for more serious contemplation about how the Allied powers would respond to the same phenomenon (what might be the fate of the teenaged Che Guevara, for instance?), although the angle about how a JFK handles his sudden advance celebrity is illuminating.

As for the warriors from the future, the speculations about their hardness and brutal pragmatism is clearly a reflection upon current trends and where they are taking us (the people from 2021 are, after all, either us or our children). Particularly poignant is the scene in which the post-postmodern rules of engagement make even the hard-ass Douglas MacArthur blanche.

On the upside, our 21C cousins have impeccable aesthetic sensibilities and wondrous design skills, manifest most droolingly in Birmingham's loving description of an achingly cool apartment conversion in Manhattan. I strongly suspect that he covets this sort of place somewhere deep in his soul, and why wouldn't you? I would not be surprised to read one day that - on the proceeds of the richly deserved film rights - he has found for his famous brown couch a gorgeous pad much like this one.

Birmingham has a lot more fun deploying names familiar to us from the allegedly real world, sometimes in apt ways - the spectacle of a soldier named Albrechtson going up against an SAS platoon consisting of the rest of the Australian conservatariat (think Bolt, Akerman, et al.) is hilarious.

Some characteristic Birmingham turns of phrase pop up - I'm thinking 'the horse they rode in on' from the epilogue of Leviathan. But his novel formulations are even better. Birmingham's baroque talent for gruesome description - utterly appropriate for this totally over-the-top genre - is at its best here: 'a blizzard of offal' is one of the choicest images I've come across in a good long while, although 'one of them flew apart into half-a-dozen flaming chunks of road kill' gives it a run for its money. Lovely stuff.

And in amongst all this blokey carnage and gee-wizz technoporn is a keenly observed conjecture about how clashes of time and culture might play out; how different kinds of people will respond to the same existential provocation; how contortions of narrative fabric reveal the ways in which we construct our world around ourselves; and how different people are differentially equipped to adapt to radical change.

No doubt Birmingham would deny putting this much thought into the things that fill the interstices between the main narrative elements, but it's all there regardless - this sort of sub-dramatic contemplation is unavoidable in a longish character-driven narrative of this quality. You just can't write this well and be this smart without getting into the more subtle stuff. Birmingham's people think about their situation, they react and respond, they cope or freak out, they take advantage or take responsibility, they keep their heads down or they step up. Designated Targets is an airport blockbuster, to be sure, and it is fabulously successful on that level. But there's plenty more there for the taking if you want it, although none of it gets in the way of the central driving narrative. What more can a reader want?

This follow-up to a highly original and entertaining first instalment is a bloody good job. Of course it's a mid-stream book - I cannot understand people whingeing that book 2 in a trilogy turns out to be, um, book 2 in a trilogy, or that it might prove useful to have read 2.1 before reading 2.2 (I mean, they're numbered and everything, to help us out). But that only means that we have a fabulous crunching crescendo to look forward to in the next instalment. And won't the movie be cool!

In summary, get your head into it. It's a great yarn built on a brilliant premise that provokes some intriguing ideas. You can't ask for more than that.
6 internautes sur 7 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
HASH(0x8ba4c4bc) étoiles sur 5 Pull the other one, cobber 22 janvier 2006
Par Auckland Kiwi - Publié sur
Format: Broché
I'm giving this 5 stars for being a great airport trash book to read (the kind where you know you have to turn your brain off before you read it) and because the author's sense of humour/sly quotes makes it fun to read. The expression "pull the other one" is informal Brit/Aust/NZ slang for "expressing a suspicion that one is being teased" (OED).
Many Amazon reviewers (from the USA) of the first book in the series complained about the aircraft carrier named "Hilary Clinton", mainly because the future in the book had her being president of the USA, and this offended them. Being from outside the USA, i.e. from New Zealand, I thought it was much ado about nothing.
Then in the second book, the author mentions "tattooed Maori soldiers" and "Maori soldiers and their New Zealand slavers" so initially I got just as offended as the people who were upset about Hilary Clinton - then I realised I was probably having my leg pulled and laughed about it.
On the more nitpicking side, one reviewer praised this book for attention to detail but there are some slip-ups:
*when the French sub-fusion cruise missiles hit Hawaii and explode, the author has all the radios, electrical wiring, phones, etc become fused and useless because of the associated EMP pulse. While this would be true for the commercial electronic gear brought back by the 21st century people, it is totally false for the 1940s electrical and electronic stuff. 1940s radios, radar, etc all used valves which are EMP-proof; similarly, telephone exchanges used relays and phones had no solid state parts so they too would have been unaffected by the EMP pulse (a point to note for book3?).
* Second, the people spying on J.Edgar Hoover in the Florida hotel mention that they told the hotel staff they were going off scuba-diving. As scuba gear dates from the late 1940s/1950s, the hotel staff would have been confused by the alibi!
I note from a reviewer of book 1 that he heard an interview with the author who stated his aim with book 1 was to write the "dumbest book out", so this series must be read with this in mind. However, he must be getting worried as book 2 is receiving some good reviews here!; still, if he gets rich from these books, good on him.
6 internautes sur 7 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
HASH(0x8ba4c5a0) étoiles sur 5 Halfway through Book 2, Getting Frustrated/Turned Off 6 septembre 2012
Par R. Stitt - Publié sur
Format: Format Kindle Achat vérifié
This series has a lot to like...the premise, for starters I find fascinating. The first half of the first book was very engaging for me as it played out. Since then, I still find a lot of it fascinating but the plot is dragging, and the idea that with all of the advantages handed the U.S./Allies in the opening scenario are squandered in four months with the Germans/Japanese reaping more benefits is not IMO plausible. But two things are really starting to bug me about this, the clash of 21st century "enlightened" values with "neanderthal" 1940's ones is intriguing, and a big part of that would be the role of women. Clearly, a lot of progress has been made...but this book is starting to read like a feminist treatise...really hammering the reader on the issue. Two, almost all of the 1940's characters are just seedy, grubby people...and many of the 21st century ones as well. It's getting to be a real drag. Only a few characters to really like, and they're not nearly as well-drawn as the dissolute ones. And they're just sort of dragged along in the plot by the morally bankrupt characters. This is the main reason I'm getting less and less enjoyment from reading the the point where I'm not certain I'm even going to finish it.
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