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The Guns of the South Mass Market Paperback – September 1, 1993

4.2 out of 5 stars 281 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

The Confederates win the Civil War with aid from South African time travelers in this unconvincing "what-if" tale. Using a time machine, Andrew Rhoodie and his cadre of white supremacists from A.D. 2014 join the rebels and supply them with AK-47 assault rifles. Rhoodie's "America Will Break" brotherhood hopes to foster a haven for slavery and extreme racism that will last into succeeding centuries. Thus armed, Gen. Robert E. Lee's troops are soon victorious, and Lincoln agrees to divide the nation. Lee wins political office in the South, and, ironically, becomes both a proponent of emancipation and a foe of the bigoted visitors from the future. Turtledove ( Krispos Rising ) might win over some Civil War buffs through his knowledge of historical figures and events. But stilted dialogue, slack pacing and thin characters diminish the book's appeal.
Copyright 1992 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

The Guns of the South begins in January 1864. Lee's army suffers from shortages of arms and supplies, and the general is privately convinced that the war is lost. Then Andries Rhoodie appears with a new type of rifle--an AK-47--and offers unlimited arms to the Confederacy. With the new weapons, the South wins the war and history is changed. The peacetime Confederacy still confronts divisional strife over slavery, however, and Rhoodie and the group he represents become angry when the Confederate government begins relaxing laws concerning slavery. Their whole reason for helping the South win had been to create a supremacist white culture for the future. The Confederate government is now faced with a new enemy--Rhoodie and his soldiers, armed from the future. Successful alternate history makes readers believe that they have stepped back in time; although his research is meticulous, Turtledove fails to convince. A marginal purchase.
- Anne Keenan, Blair P.L., Neb.
Copyright 1992 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Mass Market Paperback: 576 pages
  • Publisher: Del Rey; Reprint edition (September 1, 1993)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0345384687
  • ISBN-13: 978-0345384683
  • Product Dimensions: 4.1 x 0.9 x 6.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (281 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #260,653 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By D. Mataconis on August 24, 2005
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Virtually every historian, amateur or professional, has asked the question --- What if ? What if Hannibal had not made it across the Alps ?

What if Germany had won the Battle of Britain ?

What if the South had won the Civil War ?

That's the question Harry Turtledove tries to answer in The Guns of The South.

The book begins in the winter camp of the Army of Northern Virginia. Robert E. Lee, only months from the defeat at Gettysburg, ponders yet another spring and summer of confrontation with the North when he is approached by a man offering him an unparallelled advantage in the war --- weaponry from the 20th Century in the form of the AK-47. As it turns out, this man is the leader of a group of South African whites who have traveled back in time to 1864 in an effort to change the course of history and create in the Confederate States of America a power center for the white race into the 21st Century.

The course of a Civil War changed by automatic weaponry is predictable. Instead of winning the Battle of the Wilderness, the Army of the Potomac suffers a horrible defeat at the hands of the Lee's men and begins a retreat back to Washington that never succeeds.

The first half of the book ends with the Confederate Army on the lawn of the White House as General Lee accepts the surrender of Abraham Lincoln. The description of battles that never took place --- in Bealton, Virginia and Rockville, Maryland --- is gripping and the vision created by the description of Lincoln and Lee standing on the White House Lawn amidst a sea of Confederate Gray made me wish the book had been made into a movie.

The second half of the book is where the interesting things happen.
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
Time travel, as absurd and unlikely a concept that it is, has long enamored science fiction fans. Witness the incredible box-office returns of the "Back to the Future" and "Terminator" films -- movies about as far apart in overall audience appeal as one can get, yet both dealing with the same basic premise. Most of the genre deals with the potential paradoxes involved, and a few (David Gerrold's "The Man Who Folded Himself" springs to mind) investigate the logistical issues. Yet Turtledove takes a completely different approach: Who cares about Paradoxes, if you had a time machine, what would you do with it? If you could change history, what even would you alter?
For a renegade band of South African mercenaries, the answer is easy: Change the outcome of the Civil War. At risk of dating myself, I remember a long-ago Saturday Nigh Live sketch in which Napolean was given a B52. Absurdist comedy, nothing more. Yet the intriguing cover of this book shows Robert E. Lee holding an AK-47. What if, indeed?
The mechanics of the time machine are not investigated, nor should they be, as this is a historical novel as opposed to a sci-fi novel. I find it more akin to "Killer Angels" than anything by, say, Arthur Clarke. Instead we are given an in-depth look at Lee, plus a schoolteacher-turned-first seargent from North Carolina, as they both watch the Civil War unfold in a manner completely different from what you and I were taught in history class.
Turtledove's eye for detail is, as always, keen; after reading the first chapter, the reader could probably pick up, load, and fire an AK47. We meet characters from the 47th North Carolina, and spend a winter and a few battles with them.
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
I was a little wary of this book when a friend recommended it to me. Even though I'm a lifelong Southerner (with roots here that run back to the 1700s - I ain't from carpetbagger stock), I'm not the sort who nurses a permanent grudge against Yankees, and who's just itchin' for a rematch. But I went with my friend's suggestion, and I was pleasantly surprised. This really is a terrific book. If you're looking for a hard scientific look at time-travel, you'd best look elsewhere - the time-travel in this book is just an excuse to provide the South with a means for winning the Civil War. The rest of the book is a thoroughly researched, entertaining work of "alternate history," which will also give readers a good sense of the politics and personalities that were at work during this period of history. Civil War buffs should love it. A great, fun book. I highly recommend it.
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So far, this is an interesting read. However, Mr. Turtledove breaks the knowledgeable reader's suspension of disbelief early on, when the Southern troops are firing their AK-47's for the first time, when Turtledove states; "...the men drew back their charging handles, and each soldier chambered a round. "Fire!". [However] not every repeater [AK-47] spat flame. "Check [that] your change lever [is not on Safe]." [The] Soldiers checked. Some of them swore at themselves. The next volley was fuller..." Well, considering it is quite impossible to "chamber a round" in the AK-47 when the "change lever" [i.e., the selector switch] is on safe, then this entire paragraph shows Turtledove's lack of research into the exact weapon THAT THE ENTIRE BOOK IS BASED ON. This is not a good thing, because it immediately yanks you right out of the story...
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