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36 of 40 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars What If Scenarios
Virtually every historian, amateur or professional, has asked the question --- What if ? What if Hannibal had not made it across the Alps ?

What if Germany had won the Battle of Britain ?

What if the South had won the Civil War ?

That's the question Harry Turtledove tries to answer in The Guns of The South.

The book begins in...
Published on August 24, 2005 by D. Mataconis

versus
55 of 72 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Could've used a good editor
Harry Turtledove, Guns of the South (Del Rey, 1992)

Time to make shish kebab out of another sacred cow. Guns of the South is considered THE alternate history novel by many, the one alternate history novel that should be required reading in history classes and on just about every historian's list of must-read Civil War books. And to be fair, it's almost that...
Published on December 2, 2000 by Robert Beveridge


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36 of 40 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars What If Scenarios, August 24, 2005
By 
D. Mataconis (Bristow, Virginia) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
Virtually every historian, amateur or professional, has asked the question --- What if ? What if Hannibal had not made it across the Alps ?

What if Germany had won the Battle of Britain ?

What if the South had won the Civil War ?

That's the question Harry Turtledove tries to answer in The Guns of The South.

The book begins in the winter camp of the Army of Northern Virginia. Robert E. Lee, only months from the defeat at Gettysburg, ponders yet another spring and summer of confrontation with the North when he is approached by a man offering him an unparallelled advantage in the war --- weaponry from the 20th Century in the form of the AK-47. As it turns out, this man is the leader of a group of South African whites who have traveled back in time to 1864 in an effort to change the course of history and create in the Confederate States of America a power center for the white race into the 21st Century.

The course of a Civil War changed by automatic weaponry is predictable. Instead of winning the Battle of the Wilderness, the Army of the Potomac suffers a horrible defeat at the hands of the Lee's men and begins a retreat back to Washington that never succeeds.

The first half of the book ends with the Confederate Army on the lawn of the White House as General Lee accepts the surrender of Abraham Lincoln. The description of battles that never took place --- in Bealton, Virginia and Rockville, Maryland --- is gripping and the vision created by the description of Lincoln and Lee standing on the White House Lawn amidst a sea of Confederate Gray made me wish the book had been made into a movie.

The second half of the book is where the interesting things happen. The South has won its independence and now, the question is, what will it do with it ? Reflected primarily through the character of Robert E. Lee and First Sgt. Nate Caudell, Turtledove paints a picture of a Confederacy not entirely at ease with the institution that sets it apart from its Northern neighbor -- slavery. As Lee begins his path toward the Presidency of the Confederacy, he begins to question whether slavery should continue and comes to a conclusion that puts him at odds with the foreign benefactors who gave the South the means to achieve its independence.

Ultimately, this book tries to answer the question of what the Civil War was really about. Was it about state's rights and federalism as modern-day Southern partisans would claim, or was it really about slavery and the domination of one race of men by another ? I'm not sure I agree that an independent South would have given up slavery as easily as the author suggests, but he presents a compelling case.

On some level, though, I found this book disappointing. It wasn't true alternate history. It was history manipulated by the deus ex machina of time traveling South African racists. I would much rather see a story that took history has it actually occurred and simply changed the outcome of one event. That, apparently, is what How Few Remain and the books that follow it is about. That is a story I look forward to seeing unfold.
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22 of 24 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Almost all sci-fi looks at the future. Almost all..., March 29, 1999
Time travel, as absurd and unlikely a concept that it is, has long enamored science fiction fans. Witness the incredible box-office returns of the "Back to the Future" and "Terminator" films -- movies about as far apart in overall audience appeal as one can get, yet both dealing with the same basic premise. Most of the genre deals with the potential paradoxes involved, and a few (David Gerrold's "The Man Who Folded Himself" springs to mind) investigate the logistical issues. Yet Turtledove takes a completely different approach: Who cares about Paradoxes, if you had a time machine, what would you do with it? If you could change history, what even would you alter?
For a renegade band of South African mercenaries, the answer is easy: Change the outcome of the Civil War. At risk of dating myself, I remember a long-ago Saturday Nigh Live sketch in which Napolean was given a B52. Absurdist comedy, nothing more. Yet the intriguing cover of this book shows Robert E. Lee holding an AK-47. What if, indeed?
The mechanics of the time machine are not investigated, nor should they be, as this is a historical novel as opposed to a sci-fi novel. I find it more akin to "Killer Angels" than anything by, say, Arthur Clarke. Instead we are given an in-depth look at Lee, plus a schoolteacher-turned-first seargent from North Carolina, as they both watch the Civil War unfold in a manner completely different from what you and I were taught in history class.
Turtledove's eye for detail is, as always, keen; after reading the first chapter, the reader could probably pick up, load, and fire an AK47. We meet characters from the 47th North Carolina, and spend a winter and a few battles with them. We see first hand how women and blacks are integrated -- or rather, NOT integrated -- into the southern society, not out of any particular hostility by the white men who run the south, but more as an extension of tradition. It is difficult to read about Nate Caudell, a poor schoolteacher who is without a doubt the most learned man in his community (but one who uses the "n-word" with familiarity) and not have him shatter the image of the backwoods racist redneck (not to worry, there are plenty of those as well).
Turtledove completely avoids the paradox issue; we assume that the Afrikanners are building a new world that will evolve from 1864, not changing their own planet Earth of 2014. But even early on, I felt a bit of a chill, as an obscure colonel named Rutherford Hayes is casually mentioned to have perished in a battle. Should the South Africans gather their automatic weapons and retreat into the future, the world has already been irrevocably changed (especially for me; Hayes is (was) a distant relative. And my great-great grandfather was wounded at Petersburg, a battle that never happens in Turtledove's world. Can I be reading this if I don't exist?).
Quite possibly the perfect airplane book, "The Guns of the South" strikes a balance between being thought-provoking and entertaining.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A great read, especially for Civil War buffs., August 23, 1998
By A Customer
I was a little wary of this book when a friend recommended it to me. Even though I'm a lifelong Southerner (with roots here that run back to the 1700s - I ain't from carpetbagger stock), I'm not the sort who nurses a permanent grudge against Yankees, and who's just itchin' for a rematch. But I went with my friend's suggestion, and I was pleasantly surprised. This really is a terrific book. If you're looking for a hard scientific look at time-travel, you'd best look elsewhere - the time-travel in this book is just an excuse to provide the South with a means for winning the Civil War. The rest of the book is a thoroughly researched, entertaining work of "alternate history," which will also give readers a good sense of the politics and personalities that were at work during this period of history. Civil War buffs should love it. A great, fun book. I highly recommend it.
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55 of 72 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Could've used a good editor, December 2, 2000
Harry Turtledove, Guns of the South (Del Rey, 1992)

Time to make shish kebab out of another sacred cow. Guns of the South is considered THE alternate history novel by many, the one alternate history novel that should be required reading in history classes and on just about every historian's list of must-read Civil War books. And to be fair, it's almost that good. Really.

As with most fiction of the speculative type, especially alternate-history speculative fiction, the plot can be summed up by asking one simple question. In that case, "what if the South won the American Civil War?" The book is essentially divided into two halves; the first half takes place during the war, and the second half afterwards. And when Turtledove is writing battle scenes, he shines. The first half of the book flies by. It's a page-turner to end all page-turners.

Unfortunately, when Robert E. Lee moves from military command to political life, the story bogs down. Badly.
It does pick up again, a hundred or so pages later, but there are a few places in the book where the pace gets so glacial I started to think I'd accidentally picked up Frank Herbert's Children of Dune instead. Yes, it gets that slow. It all wraps up pretty nicely, but the journey to get from point A to point B can sure be hard sometimes. ** 1/2
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Superior Fire Power Wins the War of Seccession, July 22, 2000
By 
Cody Carlson (Salt Lake City, UT United States) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (REAL NAME)   
The premise of 'The Guns of the South' is simple. In the war's final months the beaten but not defeated Confederate army is presented with weapons that will alter the course of the conflict- a substantial number of AK-47's. General Robert E. Lee uses these new weapons to great affect against the superior northern armies and eventually wins the Civil War. However the bearer of these super weapons, a mysterious group of men with strange accents, clothes, and customs, demand a heavy price. 'The Guns of the South' is one of the greatest alternate history novels that Turtledove has written, if not the best. Although the time travel aspects of this book do tend to stretch the story's believability, Turtledove nevertheless produces an amazingly thought provoking novel of a triumphant Confederacy. Turtledove's interpretation of Robert E. Lee and other historical figures make this novel worth reading alone. This novel along with Turtledove's other work of Civil War alternate history fiction, 'How Few Remain,' should be read not only by fans of science fiction, but by anyone interested in the people, events, and politics that made up this pivotal time in American history.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Reflection on Guns of the South: A High School Review, January 3, 2005
GOMEZ, Christian

Harry Turtledove's THE GUNS OF THE SOUTH is a whimsical adventure into an alternate history, and is a true 20th century masterpiece in Alternate History literature. THE GUNS OF THE SOUTH is not part of Harry Turtledoves series that spans from HOW FEW REMAIN to his latest great masterpiece SETTLING ACCOUNTS: RETURN ENGAGEMENT. Unlike in Harry Turtledove's HOW FEW REMAIN, the Confederate States of America does not win in 1862 by natural causes, instead a time traveler from the year 2014 by the name of Andries Rhoodie comes to the past during the American Civil War, and he offers Robert E. Lee an offer he cant refuse, which is ammunition aid, primarily weapons in this case an AK-47 automatic rifle, also a photo book of the actual Civil War, and coffee. With the AK's or repeaters as they call them, at the hands of Robert E. Lee's Northern Virginian army and the rest of the Confederate armies, the Confederacy easily unleash a blood bath to the Union, wave after wave of Union troops are instantly killed. It is no longer a war, but "murder" as one of Lee's men said during an engagement. The Union Springfield musket rifles are no match for the power of the AK-47. History is quickly changed as The New York Times reads various headlines depicting Confederate victories, and Union slaughtered defeat such as, `Disaster! Grant's army overthrown in the wilderness. Forced to retreat above the Rappahannock, and there defeated once more.' The articles read, "Unhappily, like many of our engagements, the late fighting, though serving to illustrate the splendid valor of our troops, has failed to accomplish the object sought. The result thus far leaves us with a loss of upwards of 40,000 men in the two battle's-useful information there-`and absolutely nothing gained. Not only did the rebels hold their lines, but they are advancing behind the impetus of their new breech-lading repeaters, against which the vaunted Springfield is of scarcely greater effect than the red man's bows and arrows.' ". As a result General Lee meets with U.S. President Lincoln to discuss the terms of Union surrender!

The novel is filled with great description of true historical characters such as General Robert Edward Lee, his wife and children, Confederate General Forest, U.S. President Lincoln, Confederate President Jefferson Davis, and Lee's men. You really feel that you are some sort of temporal observer of the events in story. This is a great novel for Alternate History and Science Fiction readers. If you loved Harry Turtledove's other novels or never heard of Harry Turtledove you will still love this great novel. I consider my self a "historian" when it comes to the American Civil War if you will, due to the fact that I constantly study/ read/ research on the American Civil War, and I have read several biographies of Robert Edward Lee and seen a couple of Civil War movies such as Glory and my favorite Gods and Generals, and this novel is well written with accurate historical background information a true must have/ must read for any one who just likes reading. My name is Christian Gomez, I am currently 16 years of earth age, and I attend Bronx Leadership Academy High School. Thank you for reading my review and I hope that you enjoy the book as much or even more than I did if you plan to read it. Thank You.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars The proof reading of the Kindle edition is abysmal, December 11, 2012
I won't review the book itself, as it has been generously covered by others. But in reading the Kindle edition, I have to ask if they even bothered to proofread it.

Obviously hardcopy pages were scanned and OCR'd but it is rife with errors: Proper names appearing incorrectly and/or inconsistently ("Gait House"?), what appear to be some dropped lines or partial lines, incorrect "correction" of deliberately misspelled words (e.g., Forrest's "skeer" turned to "sheer"). And then there's the place where they appear to have scanned in the wrong page or two, replacing the text for half of one scene with duplicated passages from several scenes earlier. Just brainless error and no quality control.

Should I quote my proofreading rates to the publisher? Apparently they don't have anyone in-house doing it.

The rating is for the quality of the Kindle edition, not the book itself.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars An Interesting Story, March 2, 2005
By 
Johnnie B. (Dallas, Texas) - See all my reviews
I found this to be a fun book to read. In alternate history-speak, General Lee has a major Alien Space Bat (a highly improbable and/or illogical occurance) attack. While minding his business commanding the Army of Northern Virginia, a strange and shady fellow from a strange and shady organization comes to him with an offer he cant refuse. The stranger has crates and crates of automatic weapons (our modern day AK47) that will practically give just one of his regiments enough firepower to hold its ground against an entire Union army. Lee takes up this offer and the results are predictable. The South wins. Then things get curiouser. The stranger and his cohorts wind up being White Supremicists from a 21st Century South Africa trying to change time. They are not happy with the Confederacy's plans. Read the book for the rest of the story.

Normally, I dont like alternate history books that are so implausible. It seems like cheating to me. Also, such AH stories are not particularly well written. This one seems to be an exception. Harry Turtledove has an excellent grasp of the civil war era military forces and it shines through here. He also has a pretty decent idea of the political forces competing with each other in this time frame. These facts managed to get me through a story I normally wouldnt even have picked off a book shelf!

Earlier critics dislike this story because the Confederacy emancipates its slaves. They think there is no basis for this. I strongly disagree. Most Southerners (even slave holders) were uncomfortable with the practice. Just look at the prominent Southerners like Washington and Jefferson who freed their slaves at death. Heck, if I remember right Lee himself emancipated slaves he inherited on the death of his wife's father! More important is the fact that slavery was a dying institution in the South given the industrialization of the time. I will go this far. I think Turtledove rushes the issue. I dont think slavery would be ended in a victorious South within a decade or so of independence. Slavery might have been in its death throes, but it wasnt that far along! Still, I think the grandual emancipation the author shows us is reasonable if a bit premature.

This is a decent story. One word of caution from military afficianados. The second half of this novel focuses on political/societal issues and can be boring if you dont like that stuff. If you want action from beginning to end you may be disappointed.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Exciting alternate history, December 12, 2003
In 1864, the south is in desperate straits as the north finally selects active generals and begins to push its final offensive. But strange merchants arrive with a deal for the Confederacy. They offer a new gun, the AK-47, for a price of only $50 Confederate, and can make hundreds of thousands available. Automatic weaponry can hardly help making a huge difference and Grant's Wilderness campaign, far from a costly stalemate, becomes a huge Confederate victory with Robert E. Lee's Army of Northern Virginia smashing straight through to Washington D.C. The merchants have an ulterior motive, however. They are an extremist racist group of Afrikaners (the AWB) from our own near-future who intend to use the south as a launch pad for their own war against rights for the African American and for blacks everywhere.

Once the Confederacy's existance is confirmed, the south becomes convulsed between Robert E. Lee who fears the Afrikaners, and General Forest, who buys into their racist doctrine. With South-African gold, modern weapons, and modern political methods, the AWB intends to ensure that the nation they preserved takes their path--no matter what they need to do.

Author Harry Turtledove narrates this fascinating alternate history through the eyes of Robert E. Lee and Sergeant Nate Caudell of the 47th North Carolina. Caudell seems caught up in most of the action--from Wilderness to Washington D.C. to the battle against AWB in their heartland, giving a close-up look at how a rapid-fire weapon could have transformed war (as indeed it has). Turtledove's Lee is a gentleman, but also a thinker who sees that the southern stand on race is wrong and destructive to the nation he has adopted, but who still carries the casual racism of his time.

THE GUNS OF THE SOUTH makes for fascinating reading. Many of Turtledove's later works adapt devices he develops here, in a setting of interest to most U.S. readers. The explicit racism of many of the characters will make some readers uncomfortable, but it is certainly an accurate reflection of the times. Some readers may also question whether AWB would do so much for the Confederacy without a more explicit promise to support its causes in the future, and wonder why it chose the southern states rather than the Boer colonies for their support, but this doesn't detract from the reader's enjoyment.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Nice. Very nice..., June 15, 2000
After three weeks I finally finished it! The Guns of the South is an enjoyable book, which thoroughly entertained me throughout those three weeks. It successfully combines science-fiction with history, what with the whole time travelling thing and all. The novel was not really about just the South winning the Civil War, but more about what the first few years after the war would have been like had the South indeed won the Civil War. The controversy brought about by Robert E. Lee's plans to manumit the slaves was particularly good, as was the final battle in Rivington, where Rhoodie's men's means of travel to the nineteenth century is discovered. The inclusion of the 47th North Carolina was interesting, as well, and Mr. Turtledove must have gone through a hell of a lot of research to include the various privates and such serving in the regiment. I did a little research of my own, and I happily recognized several names of the 47th's roster, including George Lewis, Ben Drake, and Wren Tisdale among others. And I was pleased that Turtledove didn't go and make the North out to be a bunch of bumbling nitwits like in his other alternate Civil War novel, How Few Remain. Relations between the USA and CSA actually remain pretty good by the end of the Guns of the South, unlike the aforementioned How Few Remain, and its sequel, The American Front. Guns of the South was not perfect, though, the story could have been just as easily told without some of the Nate Caudell scenes. Other than some occasional lags like that, the Guns of the South was a highly enjoyable novel, and if you like reading about the Civil War (like me), then you might like this book, too.
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The Guns of the South
The Guns of the South by Harry Turtledove (Unknown Binding - October 1, 1993)
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