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Stalin's Hammer: Paris. The Spoiler thread.

Posted October 12, 2016 into Books by John Birmingham

I'm guessing that most people will have their copy by now, and that most of you will have read it. It should be safe to open the sluice gates on the spoilers. We can start with a general discussion below, but I'll add specific topics as people suggest them, or they occur to me.

Before we start, I'd like to thank the Beta readers again. They are a large part of the reason you get such a polished product for an independently published book. The do get early access to the story, but what they read is raw copy, not the highly polished article everyone else receives.

Thanks as well to everybody who has taken the time to drop a review. Early reviews are more important than early sales. They make a huge difference to the visibility of the title in the online stores, especially Amazon.

Paris was a fun book to write. So much fun that it restored my interest in the whole series. As soon I've finished the manuscript I'm currently working on (A Girl in Time) I'll be swinging right into World War 3.1, using all of the material generated in the two discussion threads we've had so far. I'm really looking forward to engaging with the story in a proper longform novel again.

I think one of the reasons I enjoyed Paris so much, and why a few readers have commented that it is the strongest title in the series, is because of the care I took in the planning stage. I spent a couple of weeks plotting this book out, and a couple of months before that doing some heavy research into story structure. It would all be a bit Inside Sports Ball to get into here, but I may take some time in the future to explain that process.

It was good to get back with old friends like Halabi and Kolhammer. And of course the only guilty pleasure more pleasurable and guilty than writing as The Dave, is writing in the sexy, sexy POV of Slim Jim Davidson.

We'll be seeing a lot more of them all.

For now, however, beware.

Spoilers follow.

56 Responses to ‘Stalin's Hammer: Paris. The Spoiler thread. ’

Don Bagert swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted October 12, 2016
Oh man, I'm first! I totally called Dan Brown returning from the (supposedly) dead! So what if I got several other things wrong? LOL
Thanks for bringing AoT back, JB. I can't wait for WW3.1!!!!!!

insomniac mumbles...

Posted October 12, 2016
Yeah, Dan coming back was the biggest wow moment for me. JB took the criticism of killing him off page and snuck him back in. It looks like the extra time planning paid off.
I started reading Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee and she essentially does the same thing with Jem. He dies off page in that book which was written first, but is a character you're familiar with because of TKAM, written later, so it gave me the shits.

Murphy_of_Missouri has opinions thus...

Posted October 13, 2016
Is that any good? TKAM is one of my favorites.

insomniac asserts...

Posted October 13, 2016
I read the first 100 pages. It didn't hold my attention. I never finished.

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insomniac would have you know...

Posted October 12, 2016
and Dan Brown can stay dead. It's Dan Black.

Turlogh Dubh O'Brien swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted October 12, 2016
Not Dan Brown...I liked The DaVinci Code ;-)

John Birmingham asserts...

Posted October 13, 2016
I dunno. I'm pretty keen on killing off Dan Brown.

insomniac ducks in to say...

Posted October 13, 2016
When are we now? Mid to late 1950s? You could imagine a set of circumstances in WW3.0 that meant a whole cohort of writers, say those born in the early 60s, might now never be born, and as such we will never be subjected to their rambling musings.

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Turlogh Dubh O'Brien has opinions thus...

Posted October 12, 2016
As shocking as it was to see Dan Black come back (it rhymes!), it was more shocking that Slim Jim was the means through which the Allies struck back. I want to know what the missed target was, and my guess is Stalin's bunker.

So good to have everyone back, Halabi, Kohlhammer, Davidson, but my heart as a reader goes to Pavel Ivanov. JB makes him into a hero of Dostoevskian proportions. The guy has to be the only uptime Russian left in the new universe. He has no one to relate to, not even the White Russian wife of his landlord. There is not much chance he will see his homeland free from Stalinist rule in his lifetime, probably some status quo. Yet he fights on, inch by inch, day by day. True, others have lost family in the uptime like Kohlhammer but this guy lost a country, a nation, a sense of belonging, reduced to an off the charts asset, plausible deniability.

Speaking of new universes, I like that Einstein said there is an infinite number of universes resulting from the Transition...which I am still convinced had something to do with the Disappearance :-)

So just two books in WW 3.1? I was hoping for a tetralogy.

JB, will you still do crowdfunding for them? I'd gladly cut into my retirement fund to get immortalized within the pages - or at least redshirted.

To steal a phrase, we'll always have Paris.

John Birmingham ducks in to say...

Posted October 12, 2016
Two books next year. After that, I'll count my pile of gold doubloons and decide.

Natters is gonna tell you...

Posted October 18, 2016
I'm hoping the missed target six was the GoldenEye satellite, left intact so baby Pierce Brosnan could grow up (wrongly) thinking he might still be allowed to play Bond.

Natters puts forth...

Posted October 18, 2016
I'm hoping the missed target six was the GoldenEye satellite, left intact so baby Pierce Brosnan could grow up (wrongly) thinking he might still be allowed to play Bond.

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Therbs has opinions thus...

Posted October 12, 2016
Mebbe Dan didn't come back. Mebbe it was an hallucination.
As for Slim Jim becoming a means of striking back you can thank Kolhammer for that. He didn't have his Roomy, O'Brien running Jim's investments for nothing. Be interesting to see how many supposedly partially built death stars he has which are really fully functional (and without annoying exhaust ports for nasty Skywalkers to exploit). For a character with SJ's street smarts, he's been well played by The Hammer.
I enjoyed the character development of Charlotte-Gracie. How she developed her sneaking skills and added others to them. I'm just wondering about how a new generation of characters will arise in the new book. The key ones will need similar backgrounding. I'm also wondering what happened to Ian Fleming. I can imagine a throw away line about the Sovs topping him.

John Birmingham swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted October 13, 2016
The next ten thing is an interesting question. I really like the way Steve Stirling hands off from one generation of characters to the next in his Change series. But I got a way to go before I catch up with that.

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WarDog ducks in to say...

Posted October 12, 2016
It's a shame that the timeline didn't allow Slim Jim to play double or nothing with a loud mouthed Australian newspaper tycoon instead of the Texas oil man. That would have been the cherry.

John Birmingham is gonna tell you...

Posted October 13, 2016
Yes. Yes it is.

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Don Bagert has opinions thus...

Posted October 12, 2016
I'm so embarrassed about saying "Dan Brown" instead of "Dan Black"!!!! I don't think it was a hallucination because she's seeing him aged about 15 years - not too far off of the actual time.

BTW, I liked that the Yankees and Red Sox are still apparently a big rivalry in the AoT world. (Hopefully they have more African-Americans by 1955 this time around though - in OTL they had one between them at this point.)

I'm surprised about the Ike-Hammer ticket winning - I can't remember anytime in the U.S. where both the President and VP were top military leaders.

Turlogh Dubh O'Brien has opinions thus...

Posted October 13, 2016
I found it more than slightly ironic that Slim Jim's dual-use satellites strike back during the presidency of the man who warned the country about the dangers of the military-industrial complex...

John Birmingham ducks in to say...

Posted October 13, 2016
It's those little period details like the Yankees/RedSox thing that make these sorts of books a joy to write. World building, in the end, is just piling up mountains out of pebbles.

Don Bagert swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted October 14, 2016
I hope in the AoT Mickey Mantle avoided the drinking problems he had in our timeline. The Mick thought he would die at around 40 because that is when his father and grandfather did, and recklessly lived his life accordingly. However, those two died because of working in coal mines, which Mickey was spared of. Hopefully someone - like Slim Jim! - visited Mutt Mantle and the 10-year-old Mickey as he did Elvis, got Mutt out of the mines and made sure he got the medical treatment he needed in time, so he and his son both lived long and healthy lives. If Mickey had taken care of himself and not been so injury-prone because of it, he could have been the greatest baseball player ever.

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she_jedi asserts...

Posted October 12, 2016
Oh man oh man oh man Dan is back! He better be back, otherwise this is cruel and unnecessary teasing of your audience. I might even be persuaded to forgive you for killing Zach in The Dave if you bring Dan back, the original favourite, taken before his time.


I loved Paris, I think it's my favourite of the trilogy, mainly for that beautiful and disturbing prologue. Gracie-Charlotte is definitely a new favourite. She urgently needs a spin off series (I know I've said this before but it bears repeating).


Poor Harry looks like he's going to have competition in the Duffy stakes, and there's no worse competition than a ghost. It'll be fascinating to see that whole situation play out in the books to come. I loved Habibi and Kolhammer's return, and good 'ol Slim Jim was as ferociously despicable as ever. I have to applaud him owning half the world though.


The main thing this trilogy has done has set up a huge craving for a full length novel in the universe, and has even taken over my hankering for another novel in The Dave universe. You should totally use Einstein's theory of multiverses to link the Axis, Disappearance and Dave trilogies together. It would be epic.


I don't have a lot to contribute to spoilers beyond a semi coherent babble of joy about how much I enjoyed this mini trilogy and how much I'm looking forwarding to the new books. Stupid Amazon didn't post my first review of Paris so I had to do it again. And I had to write a whole new review because I couldn't remember what I wrote in the first one! Thank you for Paris JB, it was awesome :)

John Birmingham puts forth...

Posted October 13, 2016
Yeah, I would very much like to do a Charlotte Grace stand alone novel. Maybe tell the story of how she got from Camp 5 to Port Said.
Dunno how well it would sell though, or even how I'd structure it.

Jevon puts forth...

Posted October 14, 2016
The only way I see it would be a as part of a greater narrative about how the 21sters try to manipulate the 20th's culture, and how unicorns like Charlotte would also be social agents as well as covert ones. It would be awkward though, with the action aspects clashing with the social ones. Perhaps a straight up biography like piece where Charlotte contemplates how the 'ghosts' changed her, and she shows her awareness of how she is different as we take her through 'spy school'. I can imagine some gems of scenes where she does not fit in with 20th century school settings.

Don Bagert swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted October 18, 2016
There are more universes connected - remember Pete Holder, Lady Julianne, Fifi and the rest of their crew of pirates appeared in a short story set in S.M. Stirling's Emberverse (which itself is directly connected with Stirling's Nantucketverse). Hey! This is how you could get Rhino Ross from one universe meeting Pete and Fifi (who both died before the pirates took on Rhino in the Disappearance Universe) in the other.

insomniac reckons...

Posted October 18, 2016
Would not the whole multiverse explode due to the Rhino^[(awesomeness)^2] factor?

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jl mutters...

Posted October 13, 2016
Personally, it was an honor to beta read Paris, what a fun experience. I have to agree with others here that Paris was the best of the three, although that is fitting with the end of a trilogy that does a remarkable job in setting up readers for a follow-on full length novel.

I had a lot of favorite scenes in this book. The beginning created an immediate emotional hold on the reader. "Everyone loves chocolate". Great stuff. Then there was the creepy menace of Skarov, Slim Jim's smiling bluff-calling, Halabi's polished grace, Kolhammer's blunt realism and Ivanov's fatalism.

I had many favorite scenes, but I think the best was when Kolhammer got frog-marched out of the hotel by the Secret Service. The tension was palpable, relentless, realistic. I felt I was there rushing out of the room and down the stairs, juggling with the agents and my cell phone. Solid writing, very, very good.

And then there was the twist with Dan Black. Need I say more? Holy crap, WW3.1 is going to be amazing.

John Birmingham has opinions thus...

Posted October 13, 2016
I think my favourite line belongs to Julia.

"I fucking hate children."

jl is gonna tell you...

Posted October 13, 2016
I liked the counterpoint as well, it resonated. "Two children who'd had everything taken from them".

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jl puts forth...

Posted October 13, 2016
I could be wrong, but did I hear somewhere that JB was going to bundle all the "Hammer" series and release them as a print-on-demand? That would be good. Love ebooks, but I have a special shelf at home for printed copies of my favorites. The "Hammer" trilogy can go on the shelf with books such as "The Forever War", "Dies the Fire" and "Old Man's War".

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Josh C. mutters...

Posted October 13, 2016
I'm gonna put the brakes on for a minute about Dan Black, because I'm still not sure he's not a figment of Julia's near-death experience. If he *is* alive and leading his own team that materialized on the ship in Egypt... it'd almost have to be an all-'temp squad, no? Pretty much impossible for Julia to not know he survived if he's still plugged into uptimer circles.

I really liked the exploration of the feelings of loss and dislocation in this one, and I hope that continues into WW3.1. Charlotte's going to be an incredible character if we get to hang out with her in any context other than Angel Of Death, because she's damn near a unicorn, as Julia grokked pretty quickly -- too young to be an actual uptimer but thoroughly acculturated, yet ten-plus years older than the post-Transition generation (I don't know if they're the Baby Boom here).

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Stevo6069 mumbles...

Posted October 13, 2016
Dan Black back like the second coming. Only way this gets topped is if somehow Solo is ejected from the first stellar furnace that became of Star killer base. Hopefully played by Chris Pratt.

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Sparty2 puts forth...

Posted October 13, 2016
Solo died? How about a spoiler alert!!
Paris was a great read- can't wait for more,
Hopefully with a young IVA Richards deciding not to
Follow his destiny but instead his name sake into
The SAS....everyone fitted into their book roles so
Naturally- but really want to see Halabi back in the CiC

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Murphy_of_Missouri would have you know...

Posted October 13, 2016
It is true, Sparty. Napoleon Solo did indeed die in The Man From Uncle.

John Birmingham puts forth...

Posted October 13, 2016
Murph...

Murphy_of_Missouri mutters...

Posted October 13, 2016
Oh yeah.


Spoiler alert.

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Surtac mutters...

Posted October 13, 2016
So many good things to say about this book and what it does to my mind in terms of speculation of possibilities or connections for the next books. I have to re-read it before I'll get my brain to settle down and start to organise my thoughts in any sort of coherent manner.


In the meanwhile, a question that has been nagging me since SH: Rome:

Is the hammer itself based on the Project Thor / 'rods from God' stuff that Jerry Pournelle was involved in at Boeing in the late 1950s? I've always assumed it was, and have been looking for a sneaky mention of it somewhere.

John Birmingham puts forth...

Posted October 13, 2016
Yes, and I seem to recall it was Prof Boylan who put me onto it.

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Thalesian is gonna tell you...

Posted October 13, 2016
I had thought the name Stalin's Hammer came from the nickname given to some of the Russian late-WW2 tanks - like the SU122 Tank Destroyer, etc... but that may be because I play WOT Blitz a bit too much.

I did like the Kinetic Energy Weapon as a choice of weapon for the Russians to build... Relatively cheap, and if your opponents have no real counter-strike, you would own the orbitals (and the planet).

Plus, I salute your choice to call it Stalin's Hammer, rather than Stalin's Rod

John Birmingham swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted October 13, 2016
Dann. Wish I'd gone with Stalin's Rod now.

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Oldy asserts...

Posted October 13, 2016
I loved the Stalin's Hammer novellas. Returning to this series again was like visiting old friends. I remember happening upon Dave and the Monsters in Dymocks last year and discovering that the first two Stalin's Hammer episodes were out. Man, busting with excitement.

Happened again earlier this week when I discovered Paris was out. I can't wait for 3.1.

One thing that's bugged me since I first picked up Weapons of Choice: you predicted Hillary Clinton's Presidency about twelve years beforehand. How, and can I get tonight's Powerball numbers?

Oldy puts forth...

Posted November 10, 2016
Yeah... don't worry about those lotto numbers mate, as it turns out...

Oldy ducks in to say...

Posted November 10, 2016
Yeah... don't worry about those lotto numbers mate, as it turns out...

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Therbs mumbles...

Posted October 13, 2016
Off topic. While I was swapping books between devices "Brave Ones" popped up as a recommendation for a couple of bucks. Just starting it and interested in the historical context of the Indo leadership's hubris and sheer brutality. Could be interesting in 3.1 to see Indo leadership being brutal against commie insurgents, having learned such stuff from the Japanese.
Anyway, back to East Timor.

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DaveC swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted October 16, 2016
Best bit for me - and admittedly - I am pretty slow, was that I never saw 3.1 coming until the final fifth of the book. And then it was like.... Damn! Why didn't I see that coming?
And somewhere down the line JB, do go Inside Sports Ball into story structure. Because the way these novellas fitted together, and escalated was bad-arse.

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ronS would have you know...

Posted October 16, 2016
Loved it. I see the link with Disappearance a real possibility and who knows - if Dave needs explanation ever you can certainly blame the uptimers, But I also see an homage to Red Storm Rising if you want to nod to Tom C

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Rhino reckons...

Posted October 16, 2016
For everyone that is expecting a Red Tide Rising redux ... Fuck that.

It isn't the 80's in our world.

What we are going to have is a 1950's world with whatever uptime shit that the powers that be determine can be weaponized in the their now ... per JB's imagination.

Did some nerd boy at the pentagon with access to future literature get all exciited about the mtorcycles killing tanks like I did when readindint RTR? Don't know. But I hope so.

What I do expect is that it is going to be uglier than anyone could think. I expect there will be chemicals, biological, and, yes, nukes. Plus, there will be orbital, kinetic strikes from orbit. It will be horrific.war as we haven't known.

I know JB wants to wrap it up in 2 books ... but I expect that it will expand beyond that. It will take on a life of its own. Fuck, the chapters with Rhino's Banshees with Havok doing the atrocities will take most of the second book. Just the descriptions of Havok carving the Southern Cross into the skins of ambushed Soviet scouts will take pages upon pages. Can you imagine? The combined tactical genius of Rhino combined with the ferocity of Havock? The mind boggles.

Besides that, you have the minor characters that Birmo has brought along. Halabi, Kolhammer, the return of Dan. Whatever. Sure, I wanna see them. OK. I'm dying for that but I'm not going to admit it.


insomniac ducks in to say...

Posted October 17, 2016
Don't forget about the 4th book detailing the War Crimes Tribunal.

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ronS is gonna tell you...

Posted October 17, 2016
RTR is a band or algal bloom

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MuddyRunner has opinions thus...

Posted October 17, 2016
Slim Jim remains my favourite reprobate, albeit a gold-plated one.

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Guy mumbles...

Posted October 18, 2016
Thoroughly enjoyed Paris and the two predecessors. However, I think think the short formats prevent JB from exploring the temporal conflict between the 1950s and the 2020s as well as was possible in the previous full length novels.

Really looking for ward to the new novels which will give him the space to go to town. The beauty of the original AoT trilogy was in the detail. The mutual incomprehension of the time travellers and the 'temps' was hugely entertaining and there's room for so much more. That's a hint BTW - I hope we get more than a mere two new books. This is a fascinating universe and I want to see much more of it.

John Birmingham ducks in to say...

Posted October 18, 2016
You're right about the short format. So right that Paris will be the last time I do it, other than for giveaway volumes.

Therbs reckons...

Posted October 18, 2016
Short format would be good for linking narrative arcs outside the main blocked out books or playing around with sideshows, e.g. Stalin's daughter getting caught up in some sort of shenanigans.

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Marzuk ducks in to say...

Posted October 19, 2016
Loved it, while the whole short story format is a draw back as it feels the good chewy stuff from a story is missing. Glad to hear its back to big books after this. These 3 hammers have got me some pumped for ww3

Something tells me old crazy uncle stalin is still not happy that the glorious USSR didnt survive in the Uptime Timeline. Reckon ww3 is just going to be a scorched earth conflict to cover his true intent. Redoing the wormhole experiment to send soviets back with plans and data to ensure soviets power is absolute.

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MarkatVAVS has opinions thus...

Posted October 24, 2016
I [pit off reading Stalins Hammer : Cairo and Stalins Hammer; Paris until I reread the Axis of Time trilogy and Stalins Hammer:Rome again.

Best idea ever, and man I loved the whole thing. Cairo built on Rome, and then Paris built on that, and all I can say is WOW!!!!!!!!.

Looking fowrad to the next book.........

John Birmingham reckons...

Posted October 24, 2016
Cheers, guv.

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Brad is gonna tell you...

Posted November 5, 2016
Some questions I'd love to see answered with the new books—

So Alan Turing is in California based on previous threads. Grace Hopper is tenure-track at Vassar but hadn't applied for a commission before the Transition; what's she doing in 1955? How do the institutions in Massachusetts stay relevant when California seems to be getting a big leg up with the Zone?

On the Russian side, who is Leon Theremin working for now? (Or did Stalin decide to forget about the rehabilitation?)

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