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Bring the Jubilee (Alternate History Masterpiece) Paperback – September 8, 1997

4.1 out of 5 stars 38 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From the Inside Flap

--Ray Bradbury

The United States never recovered from The War for Southern Independence. While the neighboring Confederacy enjoyed the prosperity of the victor, the U.S. struggled through poverty, violence, and a nationwide depression.

The Industrial Revolution never occurred here, and so, well into the 1950s, the nation remained one of horse-drawn wagons, gaslight, highwaymen, and secret armies. This was home for Hodgins McCormick Backmaker, whose sole desire was the pursuit of knowledge. This, he felt, would spirit him away from the squalor and violence.

Disastrously, Hodgins became embroiled in the clandestine schemes of the outlaw Grand Army, from which he fled in search of a haven. But he was to discover that no place could fully protect him from the world and its dangerous realities. . . .

"The Civil War has been often rethought, most effectively in Ward Moore's Bring the Jubilee."
--Donald E. Westlake
The New York Times

About the Author

* #42 in the Millennium SF Masterworks series, a library of the finest science fiction ever written. * 'Seminal ... concise and elegiac' Encylopedia of Science Fiction * 'A classic alternative world story' Brian Aldiss * 'One of the best American writers' Ray Bradbury --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

The latest book club pick from Oprah
"The Underground Railroad" by Colson Whitehead is a magnificent novel chronicling a young slave's adventures as she makes a desperate bid for freedom in the antebellum South. See more

Product Details

  • Series: Alternate History Masterpiece
  • Paperback: 221 pages
  • Publisher: Del Rey; 1st Ballantine Books trade ed edition (September 8, 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0345405021
  • ISBN-13: 978-0345405029
  • Product Dimensions: 0.5 x 5.2 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (38 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,792,799 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
Ever since the American Civil War ended in victory for the South, the Northern states have been a poor, backward region, largely populated by impecunious yokels. Hodge Backmaker is a country boy with less practical skills than his fellows; someone more at home with books than the outdoor, workaday environment.
In "Bring the Jubilee" Backmaker recounts his life, describing his move from Wappinger Falls to a squalid New York, where he works in a book shop for a few years. After some uncomfortable dealings with an underground army he then becomes involved with the intellectual thinktank at Haggershaven, where his fascination for history eventually leads to academic prestige.
Ward Moore has written an interesting scenario here. Along with the rewrite of American history, passing references are made to men like Carl Jung and Picasso, their destinies skewed by the differences that make alternate worlds possible. While taking part in the first experiments in time travel, Hodge Backmaker will unwittingly change their lives when he makes a field trip to Gettysburg in 1863...
There's no doubt that alternate histories are a fascinating subject for writers to tackle. So many of them have fun changing history, usually making our world look like the better one. Maybe it helps us forget the reality of our own problems; taking solace in the fact that there's always someone worse off than ourselves. A number of people have compared "Bring the Jubilee" with "Pavane", the praise for both books being fairly equal. It's hard to say which is better, since they deal with two different periods of history. Like most novels, they both have their share of romance, which almost seems a requirement for the protagonist. Nevertheless, they both come highly recommended.
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Written decades before Harry Turtledove's Civil War alternate history novels, Ward Moore's 'Bring the Jubilee' is the story of an America divided. In 1863, the Union loss at Gettysburg paved the way for southern independence and left the United States a backward, third world country. The novel's protaganist, Hodge, leaves his rural home for what he hopes will be a better life in New York City and eventually finds himself in a community of scholars where his final destiny awaits him. The characters, situations and philosiphies of 'Jubilee' remind the reader of another great Science Fiction author, Robert Heinlein. Moore has the same wonderful ability to convey the complex ideas of life and society that make Heinlein's novels so compelling. Also wonderful is Moore's explanations of temporal theory and his understanding and presentation of the Battle of Gettysburg. If you enjoy alternate history then 'Bring the Jubilee' will not disappoint.
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Format: Paperback
This is an ambitious, often thought-provoking, but ultimately disappointing attempt to envision what the United States--and the world--would have been like had the Confederacy won our Civil War. It's not done as badly as Turtledove's "Guns of the South," which trivializes the whole conflict, because this author neither invents a silly device by which the South triumphs, nor minimizes the consequences of a Southern victory. No, Moore is dead serious about the consequences to history of a Union loss; perhaps he even goes overboard, because the 20th century he writes about is a lot like a Dickensian 19th, dark and backwards, with horsedrawn wagons, widespread illiteracy and ignorance, indentured servants, voteless women, aliens who cannot be naturalized. Even the advance of science has been halted--the invention of the airplane apparently was not possible in a world without a triumphant Union; nor are there motorcars or even the effective harnessing of electricity. And maybe that's the chief problem with Ward's book: he tries to tell too big a story. He shares one failing with Turtledove: his tale is populated with characters who remain wooden, who never come to life or bring the story to life, despite his clearly earnest efforts. The whole story could have been confined to what I believe is Moore's penultimate chapter, in which the narrator, a historian turned time traveler, hops into a time machine to observe Gettysburg firsthand. What results is tightly written, exciting, emotionally involving, gripping--everything the rest of this book is not. "What if the South had won the Civil War?" continues to be a provocative subject, and I still hope to find it rendered successfully in a book I've yet to read; "Bring the Jubilee" is not that book.
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As far as "alternate histories" go, this is one of the few I've read and it is not much of an alternate history. It's also not that big in science fiction, though you might see it in the science fiction section. As far as alternate Civil War, you don't get much of that either.

Most of the book follows Hodgins "Hodge" McCormick Backmaker, of Wappingers Falls, Dutchess County, New York (aside: that's why I bought it, the location of his birth; another aside: why that town, my own reasons), and his life in a USA where the CSA won the battle of Gettysburg. Why? The CSA occupied the Round Tops. Hodge discusses his life, his loves, his friendships, the growth of his philosophy, his travel to a college-like-commune called Haggershaven near Gettysburg, and his becoming a historian. (One of the few novels with a historian as hero.)

I can't give away the story, but it seems mostly reasonable. (No "machine guns for Lee" scenarios.) There are some stretches here and there (I don't think the CSA would control all of Latin America, nor do I think that the USA would be so depressed economically.) The story of Hodge is the main driver here. He's an empathetic protagonist.

For many, the lack of battlefield drama or in-depth discussions of the alternate history of the USA, CSA, and the world will be a turn-off. The history of the alternate timeline is mainly thrown out as tidbits in Hodge's autobiographical narrative. The CSA's victory at Gettysburg is only dealt with in a few paragraphs; it's defeat at Gettysburg in one short chapter. (Comparing it to, say, Turtledove would do it an injustice.) This dates from 1953 and was one of the early and important ones. Remember that.

Decent all around. A quick read. A few typos in the text.
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