Book Review 2009 #39: Two Hawks from Earth

A reprint of an old Philip J Farmer novel…


The scene is World War II. Native American Bomber Pilot Roger Two Hawks, off course on a mission to bomb the Ploesti oil fields in Rumania, has a mid air collision with a German plane over enemy territory. Along with Pat O’Brien, turret gunner, he is the only person to successfully manage to get a parachute open and descend to the countryside.
Hawks felt something odd just before the crash, however, and that oddness is reinforced when Hawks and O’Brien land. The people are all wrong, with technology distinctly primitive (~World War I era) by even backwater Rumanian standards. What’s more, they speak a language that Hawks recognizes as a derivative of an Iroquois tongue.
Hawks, as a reader of science fiction and comic books has figured out what has happened. Somehow he and the gunner have wound up in a parallel history. One where the Siberian tribes that would have gone to America (only a chain of islands here), instead rolled west and vastly changed subsequent history. But events quickly sweep up Hawks along, as this world has a World War on a scale similar to his own going on…
Two Hawks from Earth is the story of Roger’s quest to make his way through this world, and find a way to get back home. Along the way, his skills in this slightly technologically backward world are much in demand. And, of course, like any good adventure novel, there is always the love interest.
Some of the science (especially the ethnography) is outdated and flat out wrong. Given that, though, Two Hawks from Earth does what Farmer wrote very well–action and adventure, with a protagonist making his way in an unfamiliar world.
I read this book years ago in its bowdlerized and shortened edition (The Gate of Time) and I wondered if the re-read would hold up to my memories. I noticed the differences in the text, but the basic premise of the novel and the writing still held up for me.
I enjoyed it heavily. Fans of Farmer should not miss this reprint of a long-out-of-print novel, and fans of Alternate History novels will appreciate this as well. Its not a door stopper that people such as Turtledove put out, Farmer keeps the pace crackling and the novel and story never get dull.
Sometimes you can go back into your reading past and come away delighted again. I certainly was in this case.