‘More books have been written about World War II than hours have passed since it ended,’ writes World War II: Infographics editor, Jean Lopez, in the preface to this hugely impressive approach to presenting the last global conflict in a new light. Hyperbole perhaps, but given the authoritative, statistic-based depth on show throughout the rest of the book, you wouldn’t bet against it being true.
At the heart of any good infographic is a story, and here every page is crammed with fresh, dramatic, exciting and, most importantly, approachable stories about everything from make up of fascist political groups in the run up to hostilities, to the role of the little-known ‘Silent Service’ submarine fleet, to the changing levels of global trade in the aftermath of Germany’s surrender.
Lest you fear ‘data burnout’, the art design on every page retains a staggering degree of variation, without ever feeling impenetrable. From campaign maps showing far more than just troop movements but managing to tell the entire story of a battle in one graphic, to ever more inventive ways to display infrastructure data, to one particularly sobering full-page representation of Soviet military losses that leaves you shell-shocked.
By the authors own admission, there is a vast amount of potential data (and story) that be sheer necessity has been left out of this (so, hopefully, a sequel to come), yet the book never feels incomplete. Equally, it never feels editorialised. The data tell the tales and the reader is left to interpret as they see fit.
This is data visualisation at its absolute finest. It’s stark, but fitting and never anything less than completely absorbing. A truly staggering achievement by everyone involved that manages to present a war most of us thought we knew inside and out in a completely new manner. Breathtaking.