First, a little warning. I didn’t want this review to turn into a political rant, and I have refrained from soap-boxing or calling names. But Legacy is a socially- and politically-charged novella with many chilling parallels to recent developments in the world (I’m writing this in January 2017). At several points the neo-Nazi protagonist, Peter, even says “I will make Germany great again!”; This novel was written in 2012, by the way, so the similarity to a certain right-wing rallying cry is coincidental but frightening. Legacy is primarily an alternate history story, but I believe it would be disingenuous to pretend that it is not also a social commentary in the vein of 1984 or The Grapes of Wrath.
The events move swiftly, painting a grand panorama of the life of Peter, the secret son of Adolf Hitler and Eva Braun, as he rides a wave of neo-Nazi nationalism towards possible control of a post World War II Germany. The four co-conspirators who set the novel in motion are bitter and vindictive. Germany’s defeat by the Allies is a wound that has never closed up for any of them. They believe that that genetic “right” of the pure-blooded Aryan people to lead Germany has been stolen from them. Thus they turn to Peter, manipulating his fears of alienation and worthlessness to push him into becoming the charismatic figurehead for their movement.
There is little subtlety to the dialogue. But then, there is little subtlety to the anger and fear that drives the sort of xenophobic nationalism this story warns of. The story reminds me, in style if not content, of the works of Fyodr Dostoyevsky such as White Nights or Notes From Underground. Like those works, the characters of Legacy broadcast their thoughts front and center through dialogue and private musings
I was struck by the few hints at Peter’s particular disgust for homosexuality. In general, the characters are painted in fairly broad strokes. They are mouthpieces for the plot. Thus this little glimpse into Peter’s psyche stood out to me, even though it was a relatively minor component to the overall story. There is a particularly poignant scene where a young grieving man reaches out to Peter for support, only to be rebuffed by his apparent discomfort with expressing compassion. I wonder if this is meant as a jab at the fragile hypermasculinity and homophobia that often accompanies hard-line nationalist movements, both right and left. This is particularly tragic in Peter’s case because one can see his own need for companionship- as well as a desperate need to feel like his life is worth something- glaring through the cracks of his hard shell.
In the end, Legacy is a fast-paced and straightforward alternate history tale. But its clear warnings against nationalism and fear-mongering are potent and disturbing. You can get from Amazon.