The "Great War"
multi-series (ten volumes - a prequel and three trilogies - planned so far. It could grow, Harry's "trilogies" tend to) is set in a world where the South won the Civil War thanks to Lee's infamous "Lost Orders wrapped around a cigar" not being found by the North.
The following decades have further wars between the U.S.A. and the C.S.A. WWI is fought not just between Germany/Austria/Ottoman and France/Great Britain/Russia "Over There", but between a German-allied U.S.A and an British-allied C.S.A., with all the horrors of trench warfare visiting the fields of North America as the U.S.A. slowly grinds down the C.S.A. and captures Canada.
Following the South's loss in WWI, we see it following the path of OTL's post-WWI Germany as it marchs under the banner of "Freedom" to Fascism...and yet another world war.
The books are (so far):
How Few Remain
Trilogy 1 - The Great War
Walk in Hell
Trilogy 2 - American Empire
Blood & Iron
The Center Cannot Hold
The Victorious Opposition
Trilogy 3 - Settling Accounts
Drive to the East
In at the Death. (see, I told you Turtledove trilogies grow...)
The seventh book - The Victorious Opposition
- has just come out.
To begin with, I've kinda enjoyed this series - and I kinda enjoyed this latest book. Lots of people have complained about the endless numbers of characters and the constant shifting from one to the other to tell a little bit of their tale before moving on, but this actually works
for me. There aren't too many ways you can cover the events of a whole continent (without the rather trite "world tour" type of story line) and this also lets you see a bunch of different (and often opposing) viewpoints.
And the book is
well written. But as a piece of alternate history, it - and now the series - has a major flaw...
...there's no actual alternate
history in it.
By this, I don't mean it has bad
(The Year the Cloud Fell, Draka,
any story with a successful Sealion
in it...) alternate history, I mean there is effectively no
alternate history in it. With a simple search & replace1
and some light editing, this book could become a straight historical fiction novel set in 1930's Europe and you wouldn't be able to tell.
Now, the series did
have some AH content when it started - the POD for it back in the prequel How Few Remain
after all was a pretty standard "How The South Could Win The Civil War" divergence and there was at least some
attempt to show how this would change things (beyond the obvious "the South Wins," I mean) . But as the series has moved along, the AH content had faded away to be replaced solely by, well, a copy of "The History of WWII" with its own
"search & replace" run on it.
It's at the point now that the handful of purely fictional characters are acting in a sea of people who - while they might be in different situations than on OTL - are Our Timeline's People
. They even (from what I can tell) seem to have the same personalities and (when corrected for the differences between OTL and this ATL) same beliefs as on OTL.
Harry, here, is just being lazy
. Possibly the most blatant example of this (well, to my SoCal eyes...<g>) is this ATL's Los Angeles area. Fully sixty, seventy years after one of the more major PODs around, and the sole
difference between this ATL's L.A. and ours is that the street here named "Sherman Way" is there named "Custer..."
...no, that's it - that's the only
change I can see between the two L.A.'s. From what little we can see of it (the descriptions are rather generalized), every other
town or street named is exactly
the same as here and - is at the same level (and type) of development and in the same place
Folks, that's just bloody impossible - it makes having a "Tricky Dick Nixon" in The Two Georges
seem almost likely. Sixty years after the South wins the Civil War - with two more
big wars fought with it inbetween - and a man called "Torrance" still
ends up in Southern California and still
builds a housing development/town called "Torrance" exactly where OTL's Torrance is?
Hell, there's even an El Segundo - which got its name here because it was the site of Standard Oil's
second refinery in the area. Apparently, after sixty years of difference, the name gods reached out and caused an ATL oil company to build their
second refinery in exactly the same place and
caused them to name it in the same rather bland-but-if-we-say-it-in-Spanish-it-will-sound-better way as here...
Now, having just spent some time doing my "rail map" of TrolleyWorld's L.A. (as seen here
), I can tell you coming up with different names for cities can be a pain - but at least he could have come up with a couple
of new names. Heck, Harry, you could have at least moved them around!
Damn, he can
write real AH - heck, he just did
, with the very enjoyable Ruled Britannia
- so what's the problem here?
The book has a couple of other problems too. Most notably that certain descriptions keep getting repeated over and over again every time we come back to a character. It's almost like he wrote each character's scene as a short story, then shuffled them all together without editing out any of the redundances.
Okay, I'll stop now - since I've gone from saying how I "kinda liked the book", to pure ranting that makes it seem like I think it's the worst piece of typography in the history of man. It's not. And, heck, there's lot's worse AH out there (yes, there can
be worse AH than an AH book with no actual AH) and a whole ton
worse fiction in general. It's just that, even after all the years of decline, I still expect more from Turtledove.