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V2 Reviews

V2 by Robert Harris


Robert Harris

3.85 out of 5

7 reviews

Category: Thrillers, Fiction
Imprint: Hutchinson
Publisher: Cornerstone
Publication date: 17 Sep 2020
ISBN: 9781786331403

Instead, along with his friend Werner von Braun, he has helped create the world's most sophisticated weapon - the V2 ballistic missile, capable of delivering a one-ton warhead that travels at three times the speed of sound.In a desperate gamble to avoid defeat, Hitler orders 10,000 to be built.

4 stars out of 5
10 Oct 2020

"Harris’s latest novel combines detailed rocket science with vivid descriptions of terror-stricken London in 1944"

The V2 was a costly, grim success: the rockets killed about 2,700 men, women and children and injured 6,500. Approximately 20,000 houses were destroyed and 580,000 damaged. Recognising the Germans’ knack with rocketry, the United States recruited about 1,000 of them with appropriate technical skills. Von Braun was eager to take his talents to America. As this excellent novel makes clear, he was a perfect model for Stanley Kubrick’s Dr Strangelove.


4 stars out of 5
Alex Preston
20 Sep 2020

"The Nazis’ V2 rocket programme is seen through the eyes of a conflicted German and a female air force office in a familiar but absorbing thriller"

Harris’s career to date has been pleasingly unpredictable, moving between the ancient world and the 20th century, from politics to high finance. It’s peculiar, then, that so much of V2 feels familiar. He wrote it during the lockdown and yet no sense of this feeds through to the reader. Living through historical times, our historical novels have to work harder to justify their existence. Harris’s books are always supremely readable – he has practically trademarked the term “master storyteller” – but V2 doesn’t tell us enough about the way we live now.

4 stars out of 5
Geoffrey Wansell
17 Sep 2020

"the richly talented Harris returns to his favourite period of history"

Told with Harris's meticulous eye for detail, and his appetite for the human story at the heart of any drama, it is as compelling as one of the great British black-and-white war films, with a sprinkling of contemporary detail to add colour.

3 stars out of 5
17 Sep 2020

"It perhaps succeeds as a literary novel, but as a thriller it never quite takes off."

Yet while Harris renders the historical detail with his customary verisimilitude, V2 lacks a certain va-va-boom. It perhaps succeeds as a literary novel, but as a thriller it never quite takes off.

4 stars out of 5
17 Sep 2020

"a warning about toxic futility and the ferocious propaganda needed to fuel it. His timing is... impeccable."

Set over five days, the pace is relentless. You can be staring at the exhaust of a rocket in the sky over Scheveningen in Holland, flick a page, and be in Chancery Lane, feeling the tiny change in air pressure that comes just before a supersonic missile lands. There are times, though, when Harris stops the story dead to hover over a detail that brings the horror of the V2 to life.... Written mostly during lockdown at a time of international political turmoil, Harris is delivering a warning about toxic futility and the ferocious propaganda needed to fuel it. His timing is, unlike the workings of the rockets he writes about, impeccable.

4 stars out of 5
13 Sep 2020

"A young WAAF helps hunt for the Nazis’ V2 weapon in this astonishingly precise novel"

With its tense plot and familiar characters, some readers may anticipate the novel’s own parabolic curve. But this means it offers the satisfactions we expect. Spies and informers lurk. Period details are piquant, but not overdone. Kay eats eggs “too chewy to be anything other than powdered”. Each WAAF is allowed four inches of hot water a week. Names of military ranks and units are all present and correct. Technical sections about the rockets, though occasionally droning, are astonishingly precise.

Above all there’s suspense. As Graf and Kay plot and counterplot, questions rise and fall like rockets. Will Kay calculate in time to enable destruction of the site? Will Graf stay dutiful or defect? Will Kay and Graf ever share the same chapter? V2 will keep you pinned on a compelling trajectory.

4 stars out of 5
Jake Kerridge
12 Sep 2020

"Robert Harris's latest thriller makes you fall in love with the V2 rocket – but he isn't above the laziest clichés"

His prose can be wonderfully vivid – one explosion leaves “human remains and fragments of uniform hanging from the blasted fir trees like grisly Christmas decorations” – but he is not above using the laziest of clichés. Dr Graf refers to an interrogation by two Gestapo officers as a “good cop/bad cop routine” – an unlikely usage in the 1940s. Harris has the great gift of readability; there is no living novelist whose books I am likelier to gobble up in one sitting. Is this an entirely appropriate response to a novel about the war, however? When I read Philip Kerr’s thrillers, for example, I frequently have to put them down because he gives such a powerful sense of the misery and inhumanity of the period.