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Voices Under Berlin: 06/14/09

Voices Under Berlin by T. H. E. Hill promises to be: "[a] story... told with a pace and a black humor reminiscent of that used by Joseph Heller (Catch-22) and Richard Hooker (M*A*S*H*). " It is set in the early 1950s in Berlin in the days before the Wall and during the time that the city was still divided up between France, Britain, the United States and the Soviet Union. With that setting in mind I was also reminded of I Was a Male War Bride (1949).

Like M*A*S*H* and Catch-22 the novel features an ensemble cast of characters. For the most part, though, the protagonist is Kevin, one of the language experts. He's a likeable sort, not perfect and not devoted to the army. He is, however, devoted to his love of language and to his Berlin girlfriend.

The novel follows the building of the tunnel, the trouble keeping it secret and about a year's worth of wire tapping. The wire tapped transcripts are worth reading because they are often very silly. Running the tunnel has its problems. It's below the water table so it has to be pumped. It's near an old cemetery. It's invisible as long as it isn't snowing. The tap itself isn't foolproof and the transcripts are only as useful as the person transcribing them.

At the start of the book the author includes an extensive glossary of terms. Most of them I already knew but if you're not familiar with military and cold war jargon, it's a good place to start. The book also includes a number of photographs labeled as if they were taken by characters in the novel. At the end of the novel the author provides information on their sources.

I thoroughly enjoyed Voices Under Berlin and I feel it holds up to its promise to be akin to M*A*S*H* and Catch-22. It's one of the funniest books I've been sent for review.

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