To Wake the Giant: A Novel of Pearl Harbor

Written by Jeff Shaara
Review by K. M. Sandrick

With no job prospects in Depression-era Palatka, Florida, 19-year-old Tommy Biggs joins the Navy, becomes a hospital apprentice, and is posted to the Pacific. Cordell Hull navigates the often-muddy waters of diplomacy in the White House and State Department. Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto plots a risky and unpopular course for the Japanese fleet and its air ships.

Bestselling and award-winning author of military fiction, Shaara tackles a well-known story and makes it his own. With so many histories, movies, and novels written about the attack on Pearl Harbor, one may think there is little more to learn. But To Wake the Giant harbors many surprises and shadings, clarifications and corrections of misconceptions, offering a deeper understanding, at least for this reader.

Beginning a year before December 7, 1941, the novel presents perspectives from the level of the swabby on and below decks to the leaders of government fearful of looming war and top brass weighing sketchy information and making life-altering decisions.

To Wake the Giant is detailed and nuanced, gripping and breathless. Shaara himself admits the book was difficult to write, at times too emotional to begin or too consuming to stop. The same is true for the reader. Shaara tells not only what happens but how it affects the lives of the men onboard ship and in the halls of power. Moving. Masterful.