Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Book Review: Dominion by C.J. Samson



1952. Twelve years have passed since Churchill lost to the appeasers and Britain surrendered to Nazi Germany. The global economy strains against the weight of the long German war against Russia still raging in the east. The British people find themselves under increasingly authoritarian rule–the press, radio, and television tightly controlled, the British Jews facing ever greater constraints.

But Churchill’s Resistance soldiers on. As defiance grows, whispers circulate of a secret that could forever alter the balance of the global struggle. The keeper of that secret? Scientist Frank Muncaster, who languishes in a Birmingham mental hospital.

Civil Servant David Fitzgerald, a spy for the Resistance and University friend of Frank’s, is given the mission to rescue Frank and get him out of the country. Hard on his heels is Gestapo agent Gunther Hoth, a brilliant, implacable hunter of men, who soon has Frank and David’s innocent wife, Sarah, directly in his sights.

C.J. Sansom’s literary thriller Winter in Madrid earned Sansom comparisons to Graham Greene, Sebastian Faulks, and Ernest Hemingway. Now, in his first alternative history epic, Sansom doesn’t just recreate the past–he reinvents it. In a spellbinding tale of suspense, oppression and poignant love, DOMINION dares to explore how, in moments of crisis, history can turn on the decisions of a few brave men and women–the secrets they choose to keep and the bonds they share.

Mulholland Books | January 28, 2014 | 640 pages (hardcover) | ISBN-10: 0316254916

My Review

Have you ever wondered what might have happened if Britain had surrendered to Nazi Germany in 1940 rather than continue to fight?  If so, C.J. Samson's latest novel, Dominion, just might be the book for you.  

Dominion is set in Great Britain in 1952, but Samson's mid-20th century version of Britain is very different from the one we know from history.  In 1940, faced with the likelihood of all out war with Germany, British politicians decided to give up the fight and entered into a peace treaty with Hitler.  In the ensuing years British politics and society became increasingly authoritarian and nationalistic, with much of British policy being dictated by Berlin.  Not everyone, however, supported the decision to appease Germany or appreciated the resulting German interference in British governance and, unsurprisingly, a resistance movement lead by Winston Churchill formed almost immediately.  As Germany's hold over Britain tightens, word quietly spreads that Dr. Frank Muncaster, a scientist turned mental institution patient, may be in possession of a dangerous secret that the Germans would do anything to uncover and that Resistance forces vow to keep from Germany at any cost.  In order to keep Frank out of German hands, Resistance spy and civil servant David Fitzgerald, an old school friend of Frank's, is called upon to perform his most dangerous mission yet: to rescue Frank from the mental hospital and get him safely out of the country.  What follows is a perilous race against time, as David and his fellow Resistance fighters seek to accomplish their mission before the Germans, led by a relentless Gestapo agent, can get their hands on Frank.

Dominion is a well-written and skillfully imagined piece of alternate history.  Samson does a good job of describing what Britain might have been like had Nazi Germany prevailed in 1940, and World War II never fully materialized.  Through characters such as David Fitzgerald, who commits to the Resistance cause even though it means he has to keep secrets from his wife and betray those he works with, and Frank Muncaster, who recognizes that the secret he holds would have dangerous ramifications for the world if it got into the wrong hands, Samson illustrates the lengths that ordinary people thrust into extraordinary circumstances will go to to fight for what they believe is right.  Indeed, Samson's use of ordinary, everyday people as his principal characters is one of this novel's strengths, and I'm glad the focus of the book was on the mission of one small, low-level Resistance cell rather than on Resistance leadership. 

While Dominion is billed as a novel of suspense, the narrative unfolds slowly rather than at the quick-pace normally expected from a suspense novel.  Even though the book does contain some suspenseful scenes, especially towards the novel's end, other parts of the narrative are too drawn out  making, at times, the book feel even longer than it's already 600 plus pages.  Although I enjoyed the novel, I think I would have liked it even more had it been about 200 pages shorter. 

Despite the fact that Dominion is a little too long, I think it is a good example of alternate history and, given I enjoyed Samson's writing style, I wouldn't hesitate to recommend the book to fans of the alternate history genre. 

Rating: 3.5 out of 5 Stars
Source: I received a copy of this novel from the publisher in exchange for a fair and honest review.

Dominion is currently on tour!  Click here for the tour schedule. 


C.J. Sansom is the bestselling author of the critically-acclaimed Matthew Sharlake series, as well as the runaway international bestseller Winter in Madrid. He lives in Sussex, England.

You can find more information on C.J. Sansom and his novels at or on Facebook.

post signature