Bear Hug: Buying Time is a fascinating alternative history novel from the talented author, J. Wes Watson. Set during the post-World War Two time period, in Watson’s take on the events that transpired at the August 1944 Conference in Potsdam, Joseph Stalin decides that it is his time to act and make his mark on the world stage. In essence, Stalin replaces Hitler as a threat in an ongoing war, seeking to conquer all of Europe before the Allies can regroup and react fast enough to stop him.
In Bear Hug: Buying Time, Watson, who is a retired Army intelligence officer, writes about the post-World War Two alternative history scenario in stark and realistic terms. Watson colorfully describes the dramatic aftermath of Hitler’s, and Germany’s, defeat, as Stalin rallies his forces and rolls across Europe in his quest of dominance.
The author depicts the viewpoints of each of the leaders, who had once banded together in solidarity to defeat Hitler. Watson does a great job imagining how the American, British and Russian leaders would react if they were placed in a skillfully wrought alternative history world in which “Uncle Joe” Stalin becomes a backstabbing and dangerous foe of America and England.
Especially praiseworthy are the author’s breathing life into historical figures like FDR, Churchill, Harry Truman, the British Socialist, Clement Attlee, and military leaders, like General George S. Patton and Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery. Watson includes a well thought out timeline, providing specific dates and going into detail about the settings and locations that he writes about, as the action unfolds and the opposing armies clash.
Though both the British and American military forces are war-weary and want an end to the conflict, and are desirous of diverting their forces to Japan for an invasion attempt they hope will bring about the end of the war, Stalin feels that the time is ripe for his military forces to strike. The British and American soldiers have to continue on fighting, after believing that the war was drawing to a successful close. Their visions of victory, they discover, are short-lived.
Without going too much into spoilers, it can be said that, in order for the Allied forces to have a chance against Stalin, personal enemies must become friends, or at least, well enough to cooperate together against a common enemy. Also, the tank battle at the end of Bear Hug: Buying Time is amazing and gritty, and involves a rather unlikely addition to the combined Allied might.
Bear Hug: Buying Time is a terrific alternative history novel that fans of history, alternative history fiction, military fiction, and just fans of great fiction, in general, will enjoy reading. The author, J. Wes Watson, has put a lot of research into writing the novel, and it definitely shows. He is a former Army Intelligence officer and served in Vietnam. He has a sequel in the works, called A Damn Close Thing, and there is a preview of it included at the conclusion of Bear Hug: Buying Time, to give readers a taste of what is to come in the very promising series. Highly Recommended!