In an alternate universe, Adolf Hitler never becomes chancellor of Germany and instead, writes popular science fiction, winning the 1953 Hugo award for his “Lord of the Swastika.” This work, Hitler’s final before dying, is reproduced in full with an afterwards to the second edition by a fictional professor. “Lord of the Swastika” is a science-fantasy adventure in which Feric Jagger rises to become a world leader and sets out to purify the world of the mutants spawned by an ancient nuclear war.
Spinrad wisely chooses not to make fun of Hitler or popular fiction in a petulant manner, but instead crafts a work which is at times rousing and compelling, while at the same time frequently reprehensible and underscored by subtext that is troubling both psychologically and ideologically. Such a juggling act is nothing short of brilliant, and it succeeds in being a major work of social criticism (aimed as much at male-marketed popular fiction as a whole than just science-fiction). The achievement is all the more impressive because of the believability that it really could gain a cult following. The scary part is that many of its elements such as hyper-masculinity, gratuitous violence, gross-out shock tactics and the absence of a female voice of any type, have been frighteningly predictive of modern trends. The detached academic analysis at the end of the book is the perfect conclusion, with several touches of well-placed dark humor.
There is a certain amount of paradox in reading a book where enjoying it makes you feel guilty and complicit and not enjoying it is, well… not much fun. Spinrad has too perfect of a shield to hide behind since anything bad about the book is “intentional,” but that being said, the repetition and formulaic-ness of the story gets to be a little much to trek through at times.