Verdict: Set in the early years of Nazi Germany, A PROPHET WITHOUT HONOR offers a warning as well as hope.
Karl von Haydenreich is a nobleman growing up in Germany during the 1920s. Tall, blond and handsome, Karl is the perfect poster child for National Socialism. And yet, instead of embracing Adolph Hitler’s vision of the Third Reich, Karl instead chooses a path that will change history forever.
Looking back on historical events, it’s easy to fantasize how they might have turned out differently. After all, hindsight is 20/20. For the most part, A PROPHET WITHOUT HONOR reads like a historical novel. And yet, despite consisting out of book excerpts, journal entries and letters, Joseph Wurtenbaugh’s novel belongs in the alternate history – a subgenre of science fiction exploring the ways history might have been changed. Wurtenbaugh asks was it possible to prevent the rise of Nazism in Germany. He focuses on the 1936 remilitarization the Rhineland – Hitler’s early diplomatic success and a colossal bluff that succeeded only because people of France and Great Britain were too traumatized by the horrors of World War One.
Wurtenbaugh’s novel tells a story about people caught in historical events beyond their control. Through Karl, his father Heinrich and his step-mother Rosamunde, reader experiences the shock and trauma Germans went through after they lost World War One. While this might make the novel sound like a dry and dour read, contemporary political events make A PROPHET WITHOUT HONOR feel more relevant than ever. After all, Nazis didn’t come to power through a revolution or a putsch. Instead, they were democratically elected on a political platform based on bigotry, paranoia and fear.
Echoing Hitler’s life, Karl is also a failed artist – in his case, musical composer – who turns to a military career to give his life purpose. And yet, Karl resists the pull of hate thanks to the benevolent influence of his parents. While Karl’s nobility of spirit makes him a rather dull protagonist, the disturbing ease with which some of his family and friends embrace bigotry is endlessly, morbidly fascinating. It is through them that Wurtenbaugh shows the reader how was it possible for Nazis to gain traction among the people.
In A PROPHET WITHOUT HONOR, Joseph Wurtenbaugh offers the reader an alternative, happier turn history might have taken in the 1930s. He also attempts to show that, at the right place and at the right time, one good man can make all the difference. Realistic or not, this belief is something to take hope from in the dark times.
~Danijel Striga for IndieReader