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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 Audible Audio Edition 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 Audible Audio Edition edition.
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Top Customer Reviews
American Empire: Blood & Iron, is yet another chapter in the ongoing alternate history saga by Harry Turtledove. In this series, the Confederates won the Civil War, they faced off again with the United States in the 1880s, and they fought again during World War I. The United States was allied with Germany, while the Confederates were allied with Britain, France, and Canada.
Blood & Iron is the first book after the war, detailing what's happening in both countries in the post-war era. The Confederacy is going through a situation similar to what Germany went through in the real world: massive inflation, unemployment, great poverty, reparations payments. A Hitler-like figure, Jake Featherston, is gaining popularity with his anti-black and anti-government party. He speaks out about how the Confederacy was stabbed in the back by its politicians and that's how they lost the war. Meanwhile, in the North, the Socialist party has come to power, very much like post-war Britain. The North has suffered a bit of war-weariness, and that enabled the Socialists to take over.
This brings to mind the first of this books many missteps. Unlike the previous books in the series, this one is a little too much like what really happened. It's alternate history by numbers, and Turtledove is better than that. Replace black people with Jews and you all of a sudden have the real-world Germany. Replace United States with Britain and you've got what really happened as well. The subject matter of Jake's speeches is slightly different, but the parallel to the rise of Hitler is just too on the nose. There's too few differences. During the previous books, when he was detailing the war itself, this wasn't so much of a problem. The idea of a war on North American soil was so different, that Turtledove couldn't help but be unique. Unfortunately, he's falling away from that with this book. Perhaps where all of this leads will ultimately be different, but not when you take this book on its own.
The second problem is the characters. During the war, everybody was involved with the war effort in one way or another, so they were able to do interesting things, even if the character itself wasn't that interesting. Unfortunately, Turtledove doesn't have that luxury this time, and the characters suffer for it. Some of them are just completely useless, and their story isn't interesting enough to compensate. Nellie Semproch, to name one example, is just plain dull. During the war, she spied on the Confederates at her café in an occupied Washington DC. Now, she's newly married, still dealing with a headstrong daughter and her issues with men in general, but she's dull. Again, plot wins over character, and when the plot is unimportant, the character becomes lifeless. There are many other examples of this, too many to mention here.
There are also too many main characters. The book is written so that each character gets a chapter, so we end up seeing vignettes in their lives. There's no real flow, as the narrative jumps from one character to another. I've never seen a book where you can skip so much of it if you want to and not lose any of the main story. Occasionally, the main characters interact with each other, but not often. This vignette method of telling the story also makes the book very disjointed. The previous three books carried the story of the war from 1914 to 1917. This book alone goes from 1917 to 1924. It's almost like you're reading a bunch of short stories collected in a book, with some of the stories having the same characters.
Finally, Turtledove's writing is horrible in this book. I think that, in the past, it's been covered by the interesting ideas and plot. This time, though, it's very noticeable. He's constantly repeating himself, emphasizing things. Yes, Harry, we get that inflation is going up and up, so that $1 billion dollars will now buy you lunch, we get the fact that Nellie Semproch really dislikes men, etc. You don't need to introduce the characters every time we see them. Introducing them the first time we see them is good enough. Also, Turtledove can not write a sex scene to save his life. Please, Harry, please do the "fade to black" method.
Ultimately, this book is only for people who want to continue the series. Even then, I'd suggest you check it out from the library instead of buying it, unless you're a die-hard completist.