By Harry Turtledove
Imagine the scene. Itís 1864. The Army of
Northern Virginia, commanded by General Robert E. Lee, is desperately
trying to hold on against the more numerous, better equipped, and, for the
first time in the war, well-led, Army of the Potomac. Lee fears the end is
Ballantine Books, 561 pp, 1992
Then a strange figure arrives in camp.
He has a gun with him. It fires up to thirty rounds in one burst. Itís
the most advanced repeating rifle anyone has ever seen, a thousand times
more effective than the best rifles of the North. This stranger says he
can have Leeís army equipped with an endless supply of these rifles,
with ammunition, in a matter of days. What is this rifle? The AK-47.
Thatís the premise to an excellent
entry in the budding new sub-genre called alternative history, in which
imaginative writers introduce new elements to alter the outcome of
historical events. In this case, Turtledove, author of the phenomenal
Worldwar series, among other books, has the South winning the war.
But he goes farther than that. General
Lee runs for the Presidency of the Confederate States of America as an
abolitionist. Nathan Bedford Forrest, backed by the men who produced the
AK-47, opposes him.
Who are these men, anyway? They talk
with a strange accent, British sounding but too guttural. They are
excellent fighters, using hand-to-hand techniques never seen before. And
the AK-47 isnít the only odd weapon they have. They also use something
they call an UziÖ
I think Iíve given you a taste of what
to expect with this book. I loved it, couldnít put it down. As a history
buff, I found it fascinating. Turtledove knows the Civil War, and all the
major players make at least cameo appearances: Lincoln, Grant, Seward,
Stanton. I strongly recommend this book.