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American Empire: Blood & Iron Mass Market Paperback – June 25, 2002
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From Publishers Weekly
Nobody plays the what-if game of alternative history better than Turtledove, especially when he has a large-scale subject and when he's working close enough to the present for readers to appreciate his detailed analyses of how familiar events might have turned out differently. His massive trilogy, The Great War, described how WWI might have been fought on an Earth where the Confederacy was still an independent nation. This follow-up novel begins by showing postwar life. Teddy Roosevelt is president; however, the Socialist Party gives the establishment serious competition, as veterans question the society they fought to save, and Upton Sinclair challenges TR in the election of 1920. Meanwhile, in the humiliated and bankrupt Confederate states, an angry racist with a gift of demagoguery whips up violent mobs and aims them at his enemies. Readers will recognize some of the names, but watching historical processes in action is the novel's real attraction. Knowing what happened in our timeline, readers will want to imagine the results of different choices. Sometimes, luck and willingness to compromise can resolve conflicts. On the other hand, the Southern Hitler may have his way. It depends on how well people make sense of the situations facing them. Turtledove's introduction carries over a cast of 16 varied characters from The Great War. Not all survive, but readers will be curious to see how the rest go on to cope with new challenges. This book begins a panoramic story, a new trilogy at least, that promises to be immensely fascinating. 5-city author tour; on-sale date July 31.
Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.--This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
Turtledove's Great War series morphs into the American Empire series. The U.S and imperial Germany have imposed a "blood and iron" peace on Britain, France, Russia, and the Confederacy. On the western front, the Confederacy struggles to overcome defeat, dissension, and Weimar-level inflation, and the U.S. labors to stay on top of things and prepare for the next round of combat. Indomitable, muddleheaded General Custer has his sails trimmed by the election of Socialist Upton Sinclair as president in 1920, which also makes Turtledove's creation, Flora Hamburger, the wife of the vice-president. In the Confederacy, former artillery sergeant Jake Featherstone founds the Freedom Party. His road to power turns rocky after the crackbrained assassination of President Wade Hampton V, but Ann Colleton escapes the subsequent Freedom Party debacle only slightly damaged and loses her stormy lover when the widow of one of his victims shoots him. Cincinnatus Driver leaves Ohio for the better racial climate of Iowa, and Scipio, married and now named Xerxes, learns that no matter which whites win in the Confederacy, the black man almost always loses. Turtledove's skill at dramatizing historical forces proves magisterial once more. Roland Green
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
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Top Customer Reviews
The plot and its developments were not alien to me, many of the characters either pastiches of actual persons or developed characters who reflected the attitudes and experiences of Europeans after the war. In Turtledove's universe, the Confederacy won the Civil War and has been an independent nation for the last 50 years. Further, the United States and the Confederacy have been at odds with one another ever since, and have had to wars between the Civil War and the Great War - both humiliating losses for the US.
The book begins at the end of hostilities - the defeated Confederacy a stand-in for post-war Germany, complete with run-away inflation, disgruntled veterans, and a fire-brand orator who has joined and now leads an ultra-nationalistic political party who is not afraid to use violence and resort to thuggish behavior to achieve his political ends. Here the United States loosely represents France: while Teddy Roosevelt was an admirable wartime President, he is replaced with a more pacifistic Upton Sinclair, running as a socialist, whose first act in office is to clash the defense budget in lieu of more social programs.
Throughout the book are a number of familiar names, from Huey Long, Woodrow Wilson and George Custer to other more subtle figures such as Hunter Liggett and Leonard Wood. The way in which Turtledove's alternative timeline influenced the fortunes and futures of these real people was fun fiction for me; the parallels to post-war Europe (and the gathering storm clouds that are coming) gave a sense of tragedy and hopelessness. At the same time, as much as I hate to admit it, I was rooting for (or wishing ill upon) the characters who have parallels to better-known real-life individuals (such as Rudolf Hoess, Heinrich Himmler and Hermann Goerring).
Turtledove tells the story from a variety of character viewpoints and perspectives, which works well in not only developing the plot, but in providing understanding for the motivations and actions of his characters - as with real people, everyone sees their actions as noble and good, decisions made the result of personal experiences and interactions. For this reason I give the book an additional star.
While I am absolutely certain that this story of "alternative history" is not to everyone's taste, I was pleasantly surprised at the depth and attention to historical detail Turtledove provides if not in fact, in emotion and perspective. While I don't think I'll read the other books in the series, it was an engaging (and distracting - in a good way) read.
It you are like me and want to make sure that you start at the beginning of an author's work and read through to the end, no matter how many volumes, stop right here. I cannot read the rest of this trilogy - I don't know what the right term is for a collection of seven books but I cannot go on! Unless your are into literary masochism, don't bother to pick up this trilogy starter.
This volume begins, yet again, with George Enos but, thank goodness, he is finally assumed dead.