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Comment: Edition: First Edition; 1973 Macmillan hardcover with dust jacket stated first printing ex-library book with usual stamps and stickers*b98 Satisfaction guaranteed! Buy with confidence!
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For Want of a Nail Unknown Binding – 1973

4.0 out of 5 stars 37 customer reviews

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Product Details

  • Unknown Binding
  • Publisher: Macmillan (1973)
  • ASIN: B0013EKQW4
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (37 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #12,613,521 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By A Customer on August 13, 1997
Format: Hardcover
This is easily the most amazing book I have ever read. Mr. Sobel takes a single battle from the Revolutionary War, the Battle of Saratoga, changes the winner and goes on to build an entire world from the result. The loss of this battle for the Americans results in the loss of the entire war, leaving the British the victors of the American Revolution.

After the British execute the leaders of the revolution, they begin to build an entirely new nation from the American colonies and Canada. Those who favored the revolution emigrate to the southwest to establish their own nation. The rest of the book is the history of those two countries and the tensions between them from the 1770's to the 1970's.

The people and events are much more real than you would imagine fictitious characters and events could possibly be. Mr. Sobel footnotes the book with references from publications in his new world and includes charts and graphs. Some of the characters are based on historical figures from our own history, but most seem to be complete fabrications from the author's imagination. All of his characters have complete personalities. He also includes technical developments, such as weapons and ground cars, and social developments.

When you read this book you will find yourself asking if this world actually exists. It just doesn't seem possible that an author can so thoroughly create a world, with all of its aspects and people, from his imagination.

For Want of a Nail: If Burgoyne Had Won at Saratoga is one of my favorite books. I have read the book three times in the past twenty years and I am looking forward to owning a copy of the latest edition!

The last time I read this book was three years ago so my memories of the story just can't do it justice. Don't take my word for it, get your hands on a copy of this book and read it for yourself!
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By A Customer on October 28, 2000
Format: Hardcover
I was a bit hesitant getting For Want of a Nail..., mainly because I've heard from various places that it is a "fictional textbook", and so might be drier than Death Valley at noon. But when I actually started reading it I was quite surprised to be totally absorbed in the narrative, even the really dry parts were at least slightly interesting. A survey from the doomed Revolution (where our Founding Fathers are held with complete contempt) to an uneasy (and completely different) Cold War in the early seventies. A really fascinating part of the narrative is how one event 200 years ago can vastly change the history of the entire world...by the time you get to "today" all the names are unrecognizable, as are many parts of the world map. Sobel even puts down an extensive list of "source material" from historical texts that never existed, but don't ignore them though because they sometimes provide interesting foreshadowing for the rest of the chapter/book. I have a feeling that octopus-like companies like the Kramer Associates are going to become a major factor in our own future. In For Want of a Nail... they provide a third party to the CNA and USM, a nation in all aspects but doesn't own any land. And oddly enough I actually agreed with many of Dr. Dana's points at the end of the book, which made me like it even more. One minor point of contention: the British seem to invest the CNA with a LOT of autonomy, nearly too much to be believable at some points. But basically it is worth every penny. Stop reading this and buy it now!
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Format: Hardcover
For Want of a Nail is a singular work in published alternate history. Unlike the masses of fictional works set in alternate worlds, and the occasional description of an alternate history for the purposes of overt what-if questions and roleplaying sourcebooks, its format is of a nonfiction book from an alternate world. Specifically, a history book written just like a real history book, but detailing the history of an alternate timeline. The writer, Robert Sobel, is a business historian and he has written a book that (other than the fact that the events it describe never happened), is distinguishable from a real history only by the copyright page and the subtitle "If Burgoyne had Won at Saratoga". It comes complete with footnotes (and rather interesting ones), a bibliography consisting of fictional books and some very old but real works, an introductory map, and a critique by another historian (fictional, one assumes, though it may be one of Sobel's real-world colleagues in disguise).
As suggested by its format, For Want of a Nail reads like a history book (one focusing on political and economic history primarily, with occasional references to social and military history). It is thus a bit dry if you don't like reading history books, but personally I found the attention to even the smallest colorful details fascinating, while the book as a whole moved along at a good clip - it's about 400 pages of actual text, in the format of a survey history of an alternate North America. It covers 200 years, from the American Revolution to the time when Sobel actually wrote the book (1971). If it were a real history book, it would be considered a fairly interesting one.
My opinion is pretty easy to sum up - I consider For Want of a Nail to be the greatest work of alternate history that I have ever read, bar none.
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