The Guns of the South Paperback – 31 Jan. 1998
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Don't analyse, just enjoy.....
One or two minor things left unanswered such as the time machine but, who cares.
Top international reviews
1.) I started to read up more hard facts about the "war between the states" or civil war.
2.) It dawn upon me, that the war may be over, but the struggle for equal rights and the fundamental distrust of any kind central goverment is still very very strong in the US.
To the contents of the book the writer does capture the way it must have been for a soldier at that time. And it is an intresting read.
but IMHO the southern main figures for example Lee are painted to heroically and to "good" to be believed.
Oh before I forget, the Kindle Version has quite a few "letter mistakes"
Cet ouvrage, très bien documenté et construit, mêle uchronie et science-fiction : une bande d'afrikaners réactionnaires équipe les armées du Sud de fusils AK-47, ce qui leur permet de gagner la guerre. La première moité de l’ouvrage décrit cette guerre, la deuxième l'ascension de Robert E. Lee à la présidence de la Confédération des États d'Amérique.
1) The nineteenth-century characters are all historical (as best I can tell). In the entire novel, only the "Rivington men" (the South Africans time-traveling from 2014) are fictional.
2) The experiences of character Nate Caudell (First Sergeant in Company C of the 47th North Carolina) all seem plausible. Meaning, the character's experiences read like what the historical Nate Caudell must have experienced and must have felt, during and after the war.
3) Turtledove has given a lot of thought to how the experiences of the American Civil War would change the Confederacy, even after it won in 1864. Even in this reality, the antebellum South is gone, never to return.
4) How the North (a.k.a. the USA) reacts to losing the ACW also surprised me. Invading Canada, _really?_ Lincoln is un-assassinated in this reality, but scorned by both countries.
5) The most interesting thing to me is how point-of-view character Robert E. Lee and point-of-view character Nate Caudell change their thinking when they get a chance to read the book _Picture Book of the Civil War, 1861-1865_ (published 1996), and they see how the institution of slavery is savaged by historians of the future.
There is nothing bad that I can say about this book. It works as ACW historical fiction, and it works as alt-history fiction.
Why "only" four stars? First, I find alternative, or "speculative" history fascinating, but the device that Turtledove uses to create a Confederate victory in the Civil War is flimsy -- time-traveling Afrikaners who seek to maintain slavery after their defeat in South Africa and bring AK-47s and other modern devices with them to assure a Confederate victory. Second, there is a plot device -- which I will not disclose here -- used to turn the Confederate victors against their time-traveling helpers that just doesn't seem legitimate to me. And third, the author never met a detail he didn't like.
And yet.... The third defect is a virtue as well as a vice, for Turtledove creates a complete world for his characters. Even if one (including me) cannot accept the basic plot premise of time traveling intervenors in the Civil War, everything about the world in the 1860s is entirely realistic and believable. That extends to the characters; the scenes of Robert E. Lee and Abraham Lincoln seem as if they could well have happened. And the war scenes, while they go on (far) too long for my taste, bring the sounds and sights (and smells) of battle into reality.
At 561 pages, this was a long slog, but at the end of the day, it was worthwhile and then some. So this may well be the rare case when a book that earns less than five-star review ends up being one of my top 10 for the year.
But the part I found fascinating was that the war was really only the first 1/3rd or half of the book. The rest of the book follows a couple of key people through the next couple of years and we see the effect of the south winning the war, and we find out why the people from the future took such an interest in the south winning.
For that reason, I was skeptical about purchasing this book. But when I read it for myself, I saw that it actually works. The reason why is Turtledove's attention to historical detail; particularly the personalities of the main characters. One particular scene stands out (minor spoiler alert): when Lee's AK-47-armed men capture Washington, D.C., he meets President Abraham Lincoln to discuss the terms for a ceasefire. The dialogue that ensues is totally believable: after the initial niceties, Lee's humble, patient firmness is able to wrestle a ceasefire and eventual surrender out of the lawyerly Lincoln. Had the South actually won, it is entirely likely that this is how Lee and Lincoln would have spoken to one another. In my opinion, this was the most amazing part of the book, and I was very impressed with it.
But this momentous scene takes place only halfway through the story. The rest involves Lee coming to terms with the reality that slavery will one day become an outdated institution, and the sooner the Confederate States of America (CSA) jettisons it, the better. Of course, not everyone sees it this way, including Nathan Bedford Forrest, who quickly becomes Lee's rival in the CSA's next presidential election. All the while, the white supremacist group from the future is scheming to keep slavery alive, by any means necessary.
In taking the story this way, Turtledove wants to show his readers that slavery was not the main issue that led to the Civil War; it was state's rights. Does he succeed? With some nuance, I believe he does. However, individual readers must answer this question for themselves.
My only hesitation in giving this novel 5 stars is the time travel element. Hence, I give it four stars. Nevertheless, The Guns of the South is an entertaining tale that attempts to answer one of history's ultimate "What if" questions. I highly recommend it for both Civil War buffs and readers of historical fiction.