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Mists of the past

I’m normally not much of a Harry Turtledove fan. I found the Worldwar series to be incredibly long and dull with poor characterization and fairly uninteresting aliens. He clearly knows his history, but he wasn’t so good at getting the story across. For some reason I took a plunge on American Front anyhow.

Surprise, it was remarkably readable. I think this is perhaps because there’s a whole lot of populism in it, and I’m a sucker for populism at the moment. So I went ahead and read the whole trilogy, and then the second trilogy set in the same timeline, and now I’m waiting for the next one.

It’s an alternate history timeline in which the Confederates won because Lee didn’t lose his battle plans. A few years later, the South won again. Lincoln went over to the Socialists, marginalizing the Republicans and putting the Democrats solidly in power. Marxism became popular among blacks in the South. Utah is grumpy and rebellious. Etc.

In 1914, the CSA is allied with France and England while the US is allied with Germany. Archduke Ferdinand is assassinated in Serbia. Things proceed as one might expect.

Now, I’m not going to say it was smooth writing or anything. For one thing, it’s a multiple POV book, a lot like George R. R. Martin’s Song of Fire and Ice. The POV segments are, oh, maybe four or five pages at a shot, so there’s no way it’s not going to get choppy here and there. Not all the characters are as interesting as one might like — but there’s good variation among them; he’s not writing the same character over and over again.

And, you know. Marxist rebellions in Georgia. Heated debate about the appropriate role of the Socialist Party with regard to those rebellions. Upton Sinclair, Presidential candidate. Custer as a should-be-retired general. Neither the CSA or the USA depicted as good guys. Mistakes made on all sides.

Half of me wants to lasershark it and use it as the setting for an Unknown Armies game. Or a Vampire game. Or something. Even if I don’t, though, it’s fun reading.

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