Review: Unhinge the Universe
Unhinge the Universe by Aleksandr Voinov
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
How can a reader find goodness in a SS officer? In Unhinge the Universe, Mr. Voinov unhinges the world and turns it upside down. It is said that the victors are the ones who write history. There is some truth to this saying. Hagen Friedrichs is a SS lieutenant on a mission to save his brother. In the process, his world is completely destroyed. He is captured by Captain John Nicholls who is an American with good interrogation skills.
John is tired of war. A top German agent is delivered to him for interrogation. Before he can complete his mission, it becomes FUBAR. Trying to salvage the situation, Hagen falls into his arms, literally. From here, the story takes an odd turn. For those looking for a sadistic physically torture session, this is not the book to read. John's game is more insidious with mind games to break Hagen. Hagen is caught off guard as he's expecting to be beaten and ass raped for information. John's approach slides past his defenses.
This is a very well written story where Mr. Voinov shows a society in a war torn landscape. It's not just soldiers trying to kill each other. He shows us the individual and reveals their motivations. He also shows how or why a soldier would fight on a specific side. Mr. Voinov does an excellent job of humanizing Hagen. He doesn't make a SS soldier admirable. He shows us Hagen's loyalty and sense of justice. Hagen isn't just an elite Nazi fighter. He becomes a person the reader connects with. This blurring of lines makes the story so good.
From a personal perspective, I've been taught to hate the Nazis. I'm not saying that this book changed my mind about them. What I'm saying is that every side has a story. My view of Nazis already took a different turn through an unconventional teaching. In high school, one of my history teachers was of German descent and one of the nicest teachers. He gave us a different perspective of why WWII started. He also showed how it was predicted WWII was inevitable. Were atrocities committed? Yes. We are not here to debate the cruelties perpetrated upon innocent men, women and children. This occurs throughout history in all countries. There is not a single country with bloodless hands. The focus is on the men forced to choose a life as a SS agent in order to protect his own family. In addition, this story is to help highlight that one can not categorizes and lump one entire group of people as evil. As a collective, yes, the SS and the Nazis did some terrible things. But not every single one person. Some soldiers followed orders and were used as sacrificial pigs.
Even though I'm not a fan of historical stories or ones with a war related theme, this one touched me. Mr. Voinov creates a world filled with senseless madness - one that is only too true to life. He then layers it with complex characters who wrestle with their desires. Their conflicting needs with what they must conform to nearly breaks them. To be able to find love in such a desolate time and then strive to keep it is admirable. This is a surprisingly sweet romance with sensual erotica blended in beautifully. It's a Voinov story so the reader is guaranteed delicious manlove. He doesn't disappoint in this one. This historical m/m novel is recommended for open-minded romantics who love happily ever afters.
*provided by NetGalley
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