England Expects (Empires Lost #1)
Charles S. Jackson

An alternate cover edition can be found here.

Wartime England: June, 1940.

France has fallen with 300,000 men of the British Expeditionary Force taken prisoner trapped on the beaches of Dunkirk. Edward VIII still reigns and mourns the death of his mistress, Wallis Simpson.

Left with almost no troops, guns or tanks, Britain stands alone against the might of a German Wehrmacht armed with assault rifles, main battle tanks, aircraft carriers and a pair of ‘superguns’ firing seven tonne shells across the English Channel.

Day after day, Squadron Leader Alec Trumbull and a fast-dwindling number of broken veterans and inexperienced new-recruits take to the skies against the seemingly endless streams of German aircraft. His Spitfire damaged in the heat of battle and pursued by enemy fighters he can’t outrun, Trumbull is saved at the last moment by a strange jet aircraft that can land and take off vertically. He discovered that the advanced aircraft belongs to the Hindsight Unit: a UN task force from the 21st Century sent to combat a group of Neo-Nazis also returned from the future to aid Nazi Germany wins the Second World War. As technology accelerates and events begin to spiral out of control, Trumbull finds himself drawn into Hindsight’s desperate struggle to prevent a seemingly inevitable invasion of Great Britain and return history to its true course.

England Expects (Empires Lost #1) book cover

“the RAF pilot was quickly becoming desensitised to surprise to the point of simple acceptance…most things he’d seen that day had been unlike anything he’d seen before and he’d basically used up his capacity for amazement to the point that he was willing to hold it in check until some suitable explanations had been provided.”

There is no doubt in my mind that this is the best alternate history novel I have ever read. Very long, which is great and with only a few minor proofing errors, it’s evident that the author loves the subject and knows his topic and period in exquisite detail. This book is clearly a labour of love, and I admire the detail, the reality and the prose to the point where I went out and bought more copies, just to show my support for the author (which I would of course have been less inclined to do if it had cost more). Still, the sequel will be hear soon and I can honestly say that a fivefold increase in price wouldn’t put me off in the slightest: the amount you get and the quality of the material is nothing short of astounding.

“I badly needed to remember where I’d come from… remember what I’d left behind.”

This book also packs emotion. The thirteenth chapter and the date of August 17 1940 haunted me for ages, and the sobriety and solemnity of the post mortems also impacted greatly. Something about the way this book is written somehow captured and held me and, for all that I’ve been doing other things than reading over the last week, my mind has been at the Orkneys, in German airspace, and savoring each salvo in this war.

Trumbull’s introduction to Hindsight is extremely exciting of course, but the impact of it from the other side of the fence in chapter 15 is unparalleled. And as if superb and engaging writing in both the aforementioned chapters hadn’t utterly captivated me enough, the actual invasion is also spectacular and left me dry-mouthed.

“Of course, there was always the occasional possibility of random chance or the unpredictability of others, a perfect case in point being the circumstances of that night ultimately leading to the rather inconvenient fact that he was now quite definitely deceased.”

The other characters are also quite intriguing; Schiller especially comes into his own as the story develops and I’m almost tempted to reread it, so I can focus more on him in the earlier parts of the book. Brandis somehow didn’t quite strike the same chord, so Rupert’s future actions will be most interesting to observe now that things have been set in motion there.

One reviewer of this book pointed out the “Huge” nuclear revelation. Somehow, I wasn’t too surprised by it myself, I think because of the temporal effects on aging which sort of put me on the lookout for changes to ongoing natural processes. Still, there’s no doubt it had a massive impact on the story and it was handled brilliantly.

Downsides? Well, every book has them. For me, the abbreviations – street, road etc were used inconsistently and I’d have preferred they werent used at all. But that’s really a tiny quibble on a work of such scope and length that it’s hard to take the issue seriously.

“Will there ever be a time now when anyone looks on a German without fear?”

The devastation and damage done is certainly huge in this novel and the impact heavily felt. I’m not ashamed to say that I also shed a tear as Eileen performed the requiem for the character I’m deliberately not naming so as not to spoil anything. The writing was – beautiful and heartfelt and painful. Truly, if you’ll pardon the excursion in a nod to my regular readers, an Eolian moment.

I am eagerly awaiting the sequel and seeing where everything ends up and ties together will hopefully keep me coming back for many more books to come. Thank you, Mr Jackson.

Published by Sean Randall

I am an avid reader, technologist and disability advocate living in the middle of England with my wife, daughter and pets.

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