Interesting, but not involving.,
This review is from: Archduke Franz Ferdinand Lives!: A World without World War I (Hardcover)
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This year (2014) is the centenary of the outbreak of World War 1, so the publication of this book is well timed. The author, Richard Ned Lebow, is professor of International Political Theory in the Department of War Studies at King's College London. In other words, he knows what he's talking about.
Professor Lebow asks a classic "What If?" question. Suppose Archduke Franz Ferdinand's car had taken a slightly different route and he had avoided assassination? How would world history have turned out? The author assumes that the most significant immediate consequence would have been that the Great War would not have occurred. From this assumption, he extrapolates two possible scenarios for further elaboration: One in which thing mostly turned out better than our present historical reality and another that became rather worse. He considers these worlds at a global as well as a personal level.
Playing with counterfactual history is an old game. Science fiction and mainstream writers have been playing it for years; mostly, it's true, with WW2 in mind. And herein lies the main problem with this book. Although it is published in an academic imprint - Palgrave Macmillan - there is very little academic rigour to be found here. True, Prof. Lebow fires lots of dates and names at the reader, but he cites no sources, not even in the real-world historical sections. There is a brief reading list at the end, but no footnotes or bibliography. So, as an academic book it falls short. But what about the general reader who doesn't care much about sources and footnotes? While there is some entertaining discussion of the possible alternative careers of such well-known figures as Humphrey Bogart and Barack Obama, Professot Lebow is no novelist and his character descriptions never come to life; certainly not in the way that a creative writer would achieve. There's altogether too much telling and not enough showing. It is interesting, but not involving.
In short, this book is neither lively enough to entertain the general reader nor sufficiently rigorous to pass academic scrutiny. Perhaps next time Prof Lebow will ask a co-writer to give him a hand.