This book needs to be a movie. A dumb, action packed, James Cameron (maybe that's just because he did Titanic) movie. If this thing only took 2 hours and was all Hollywood and action packed, I probably would have liked it. I wouldn't have loved it, but I might have at least liked it.
Instead, it is a 750 page monstrosity with little to redeem it except the moral of "don't do time travel, it fucks things up." I'm pretty sure (given the all knowing ghost dancers) that Kowalski would also want me to take it a step further and say that we shouldn't interfere with GOD'S PLAN. If nothing else in this novel made me want to scream and throw something, the idea of divine method would have been enough.
The writing was clear and mostly okay. At times, it was a too expository (especially when first introducing NY in 2012 and trying to get the reader caught up in the new world order), and frequently it was over-the-top dramatic ("It's veil of lies would be torn away, leaving Kennedy's true agenda exposed.") with cliches and embellishments that should have been cut by an editor.
The plot was well thought out (altho I did know that Lightholler was Roswell in 1947 as soon as they left him in the carapace to die and I saw Marie as Patricia a mile away) and attempts to deal with the question that usually bothers me with time travel....that is, how do we ever move forward and get out of a never ending loop? Unfortunately, Kowalski moves his characters around awfully conveniently in trying to solve his loop, creating other issues.
I hated that we were in an almost parallel universe. Kowalski wanted the reader to have familiar names/events and so there are lots of similarities...Anne Frank the novelist, Hitler the artist, JFK killed (with his wife Norma Jean) in Dallas 11/22/63...all of these are to show us that the world is just slightly off. BUT THE JAPANESE CONTROL THE UNION AND USA DOES NOT EXIST. Hitler was a shitty artist (part of the angst that drove his mania) and second, if the world is this different what are the chances that the same people we recognize would be famous? They may not even exist (he touches on this a bit with Kennedy having been not born in our world, but what about all the people that wouldn't have been born in their world?) and if they did, it is possible that they are just nobodies.
Second, the fact that Webster was eagerly helping Kennedy along MADE NO SENSE. Beside the complete impossibility that Reid (after having been held captured for several days) was able to transverse the desert (which was under attack) and reach a phone to call Webster and then convince him that it was worth dealing with Kennedy and then Webster was able to hijack the Patton and arrive (in the middle of a battle) at the cavern when 5 minutes previously they had figured that Kennedy would not make it back in time (and then Kennedy goes back out in battle and has to be rescued just minutes before his death?), why would Webster help him? Even if I bought the ridiculousness of the whole above, I still was not convinced that Webster would do anything other than hijack the carapace. Yes, he didn't have very many agents on the ground..but he controls a huge atomic wielding balloon. And he now knows where the carapace is located. And he eagerly leaves them about their business and blows himself up? WTF?
Third, the convenience of the trip to NY instead of the desert for the second staging made me want to scream. I could see Kowalski grinning and rubbing his hands and thinking "gotcha" when Lightholler's hero turns out to be himself and Kennedy does use his own gun to kill Cooper in the street. But, really? There was no reason they needed to go to NY. Doc could have made them go back 9 days and land in the desert. There was no battle then, they wouldn't have had to worry about the war and they could have re-assured their earlier selves that they did get off the ground soon enough. It just doesn't make sense to send them to NY except to have this great "revealing" so Kowalski can feel all schnazzy.
Finally, the mystic-shimmery quality of the carapace, Stead's influence, and the religious beliefs of the ghost dancers just made me want to vomit. This is supposed to be a sci-fi book; Kowalski takes great pains to establish the credibility of some political and technological outcomes, but ultimately the whole thing hinges on the word of a mystic? Patricia is able to influence the cycle because Tecumseh and Stead make their mark? It just was too "fate will return things to the right path" for me.
Overall not worth the energy. It has potential, but the ultimate product was crap.