on October 30, 1999
I agree with the readers who think that the United States and Germany will win the War. The US keeps its troops in North America instead of sending them to France to give the Western allies much-needed military and psychological support. Besides, the plot's progression points to a US-German win.
But no matter who we root for, it's hard to believe that the World will be a better place for either an American or a Confederate victory. Turtledove's World remains infinitely less attractive than ours, even if a victory for Kaiser Wilhelm prevents the rise of National-Socialism in Germany. The Great War series has nothing to offer but an arrogant and imperialistic Germany, crumpled land, burning towns, and lasting enmity between North and South, and between Canadians and Americans. Turtledove essentially applies a European scenario to North America, and shows exactly what our countries were able to avoid during the World conflicts.
on January 3, 2000
I can't say that the plot isn't progressing, but it seems the only reason for stopping where it did was that the book would be too thick and Dr. Turtledove had a deadline. American Front had the same problem, although we did have the dramatic Red Rebellion right at the end. Here we have more of a general shifting of fortunes. Nonetheless, if the next two books are as good as the first two, then the tetralogy will stand very well as a single story.
The thing I find most compelling about this series is the sympathy I have for the sympathetic characters on both sides while having so little sympathy for either side in the war as a whole. On the one side we have the CSA who still treat their blacks as chattel (although less and less as necessity dictates) and allied with our old WWI allies. On the other hand, we have the USA allied with the Axis powers and showing early signs of fascism, not to mention a growing Socialist movement in the absence of a powerful Republican party. How can this turn out well? Who do I want to win?
The answer is that it can't turn out well and the best thing would be for it to never have happened in the first place. Oh yeah, it didn't.
on June 3, 2000
Although Harry Turtledove is probably best known for his World War series, the Civil War series that began with HOW FEW REMAIN is doubtless his greatest work. The back-story for this series is a plausible world in which Lee's plans for the 1862 invasion of Pennsylvania did not fall into Union hands. After battles at New Cumberland and Camp Hill in which Lee crushed the Army of the Potomac, leaving Washington cut off, England and France intervene--forcing the North to sue for peace. In HOW FEW REMAIN, the story picked up in 1881 when the North declared war on the Confederacy following the latter's purchase of Chihuahua and Sonora from the Empire of Mexico. Following another British and French intervention, the Confederacy was again victorious. The Union is left embittered and hungry for revenge. At the end of HOW FEW REMAIN, Turtledove foreshadowed the GREAT WAR tetralogy with clear hints of an emerging alliance between the Union and Imperial Germany. In AMERICAN FRONT, the story picked up in 1914. World War I has broken out in Europe. The Union and Imperial Germany are staunch allies, while the Confederacy remains allied with England and France. In short order, the Union and the Confederacy plunge into a war paralleling that in Europe. The war doesn't make a lot of sense. In World War I, all of the European players had clear war aims. The war turned out to be a tragic folly, but they all knew why they went to war. In contrast, it's not clear why the Union and Confederacy are fighting (old animosities?) or what their respective war aims are. Does the USA believe it can conquer and reabsorb the Confederacy? Perhaps this is Turtledove's point-the utter folly of war. If so, his story powerfully illustrates the utility of George Washington's advice that the US steer clear of "entangling alliances" with European powers. As made even more clear in WALK IN HELL, privation and radical social change are the war's only sure outcome.
As usual with Turtledove, there are a lot of sub-plots to keep track of--at least a dozen! Crib notes are almost a necessity. Besides being hard to keep track of, some of the plot lines are duplicative. Consider the McGregor and Galtier sub-plots. Both are based around oppressed Canadian families living in territories occupied by US forces. (Even though Germany's experience in two world wars demonstrates that two-front wars are a bad idea, the Union happily jumped into one with the Confederacy to the south and Anglo-Canada to the north.) The chief difference between the two is that they illustrate distinct reactions to occupation...resistance by the McGregors and (slower to be unveiled) a slow fall into collaboration by the Galtiers. From a dramatic perspective, Turtledove would have done better to combine these separate plot lines into a single one, in which the conflict could have been established within a single family, heightening the tension.
One of the nice points in WALK IN HELL is the way Turtledove captures the complexity of life in war and the moral ambiguities was forces upon us. Consider, for example, the interesting Cincinnatus plot line-a black southerner in Union occupied Kentucky finds himself caught between self-preservation, working a day job for the Union, entanglement with a pro-Confederacy resistance movement, and the black socialist underground. Cincinnatus must sail between Scylla and Charybdis with no room for error. Although characterization generally is not one of Turtledove's strengths, the Cincinnatus sub-plot is an excellent treatment of the hard choices such a war would have forced upon ordinary people. (On the other hand, Cincinnatus has the misfortune of being subjected to one of Turtledove's embarrassing sex scenes.)
One thing worries me: In the Jake Featherston subplot Turtledove is doing some pretty blatant foreshadowing. Featherston is a front line Confederate soldier with increasingly strong racist attitudes towards blacks. So here's a prediction as to where Turtledove is going: after two more books in THE GREAT WAR series, the south will lose the war. Economic privation and social breakdown will follow. (Think Weimar Germany.) Then a former front line soldier will rise to power as a racist demagogic leader. Featherston will be the Confederacy's Hitler and the blacks will be the south's Jews. And we'll be buying yet another tetralogy-this time dealing with WWII.
Although I still think HOW FEW REMAIN is superior to the the GREAT WAR tetralogy (to date), the latter still is highly recommended.
on September 15, 1999
Again, Turtledove does an excellent job of presenting an alternate history. Amazing to think it all turned on one event as presented in "How Few Remain." From the small amount I know of how the USA and CSA saw each other during the US Civil War (War of Secession in this series - I guess it's true that the victors write the history!) this is very plausible as to how the two countries would have dealt with each other.
As a Canadian, I somehow find myself rooting for the CSA even though I hate what it stood for. As portrayed in both books of the Great War series, we Canadians are just as patriotic as you Americans, we just don't show it as overtly. Even though it's fiction, it just goes to show how war makes strange bedfellows.
I too can't wait for the next book in the series, and I can't wait to see how the borders will have been redrawn again after the conclusion. I just hope that Turtledove continues this series through to World War II (likely to have happened inevitably no matter who won WWI) and even into the 50's and 60's and the civil rights movement. Just how might things have been different.
I must disagree with others who found the pace slow - WWI was slow and this comes across well in this book. I don't think there are too many characters, and they could be developed more, but each book, they are more fleshed out.
Please, Harry - give us the next one soon!
on February 1, 2001
This is my third review of a Harry Turtledove novel, all of them set in the universe where the South won the American Civil War - or better, "the Second American Revolution".
At the end of the novel it seems to become clear who is going to win this ugly war... or isn't it? The CSA and Canada are forced to retreat on almost every front.
In this universe, WW1 seems to be much more global. Besides the heavy fighting in North America and in Europe, the Pacific Ocean and South America are also combat areas.
The uprisings of the Mormons in the USA and of the Negroes in the CSA have been crushed. But because the South doesn't have enough (white) men anymore to do the fighting, it is forced to call up Negroes for militairy duty - and, when the war is finished, to give them ALMOST the same civil rights as white men have. This is rather ironic, because if the South had done that in the early 1860ies, three bloody wars would not have been neccesary...
To me it seems Harry Turtledove is letting both sides go through some sort of learing process: the South is becoming used to equality for both black and white, and the North is becoming used to some sort of - well, socialist rule. Where is all this going to?
A couple of surprises: - US general McArthur shows up, as well as the German army captain Guderian (in our world a well-known WWII tank general); - Harry Turtledove is making more of an effort to make it become clear where all the fighting happens then he did in the previous novels; - Germany succeeds to conquer Verdun! Because the British have to fight on two fronts? - The USA decide to invade Mexico. How much more of Mexico do they want? - US general Custer has a GOOD idea. In stead of using tanks ("barrels") on a wide front, he wants to use them on a small front in a breakthrough attempt.
I still haven't got any sympathies for either side, something I like about Harry Turtledove. Both the South and the North have good and bad sides and people. I don't like the CSA treating blacks as second class citizens, and I also don't like the USA ("les boches americaines", the american huns) worshipping everything that is German. I think I like CS artillery sergeant Featherston. I dislike US infantry sergeant McSweeney. With his flamethrower and his religious fanatism he looks like the Spanish Inquisition. I certainly hadn't expected them...!
One other thing. One of the editorial reviewers is wrong saying Germany crushed France, Denmark and Austria. That all happened in the wars Germany fought in the second half of the 19th century, not in 1914-1916 in Harry Turtledove's universe. Oh yes and the tanks. TWO other things. The type of tank HT introduces looks a bit like a really existing German WW1 tank, the AV7 - only in this novel, the US invents it even before the British come up with their own version.
Is the next novel in the series out yet? The Netherlands are a Harry Turtledove desert.
on June 5, 2015
I really liked this book. Somebody told me about these alternate history books by H. Turtledove quite awhile ago. I finally picked one up at the VA hospital and got interested then lost it on the bus so I got it on kindle and really enjoyed it.
I'm reading the first in the series now. On kindle.
on December 13, 2012
As with any series, the middle book always seems a waste. I know if this particular series had only been two books, both would have been as long as war and peace, so I understand the need. The story continues off from where American Front left off, with the Red Uprising in the South. The characters continue to change and grow, with some not making it to the end and the way the story is written, you can’t but help to feel sympathy for characters both in the USA and CSA. But we begin to see the US showing signs of becoming truly fascist, as Germany did before World War II in our timeline. The South is still progressing and its fate is still unknown by this point. All in all this is a great continuation of the Great War series!
on January 24, 2016
Harry Turtledove is usually a good writer, but in this series he takes the Lord's name in vane, at a minimum, of once per page. It makes for a distressing read when one does not use foul language in their own life. Having been in the army I know how soldiers talk. But Harry Turtledove takes it way beyond anything I ever personally witnessed.
The foul language is so bad and so frequent that I will not purchase any more of his books. I bought the next one in the series hoping it would get better. It didn't. It seemed to only get worse. So I will just have to look for future science fiction written by writers other than Harry Turtledove. And the only thing I can tell Mr. Turtledove is that he could have had the same effect and still not had his characters take the Lord's name in vane. Granted, it takes a creative writer to do that, perhaps one more creative than Mr. Turtledove.
on March 29, 2001
I like Turtledove, but the method he employs in this series, changing from subplot to subplot every 2-3 pages is nauseating. Just trying to remember who's banging who (literally; sex is a central theme in all his books) is mind boggling. Just when I begin to remember the difference bewteen Captain Morrell and Sergeant Featherstone (and they keep changing rank as well) and the plot picks up in intensity, boom - it switches to some completely different subplot. It took me longer to read this book than the past 5 books I've read combined!
on August 27, 1999
"The Great War - Walk in Hell" is the third novel in Harry Turtledove's series about an alternate history following Confederate victory in the American Civil War, and the second describing an alternate World War I in which the USA and CSA are again at war. Like its predecessors "How Few Remain" and "The Great War - American Front", "Walk in Hell" presents a completely fascinating and beleivable exploration of the 50 years after 1862 as they could have been. The political, economic, historical, and social extrapolations are expert and wonderful to behold. At times, when reading these books, I find myself forgetting which world I inhabit. It's Trademark Turtledove at his best. Unfortunately, it's also Trademark Turtledove at its worst. Like many of Turtledove's books, "Walk in Hell" is told by randomly jumping among literally dozens of characters, some of whom are so similar to each other as to be virtually indistinguishable. Few are fleshed out enough to make us care a fig for what happens to them, and each section ends by leaving two or three side stories hanging in the wind. As a result the narrative flow and dramatic power of the novel is weak. Also, since Turtledove appears to dislike the gimmick of having his historic background presented in nice faux encyclopedia articles or pseudo newspaper accounts,the entire background is told through the eyes and lips of his characters. This often results in unrealistic lines like, "Hey Sarge, now that weve destroyed that Rebel machine gun, I've been wondering how come the German navy couldn't break through the British blockade back in August and attack Argentine shipping in the south Atlantic, thereby helping out our Chilean allies..." Oh well, I suppose those of us who eagerly await each of Turtledove's new alternate history novels know he's not Tolstoy. And we don't care. "Walk in Hell" is not for people who demand tight dialog and great narrative storytelling. But for those of us interested in history, as well as intellegent speculation about what easily could have been, "Walk in Hell" and its predecessors are as good as gold. I can't wait for the next one!