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"Write out of love, write out of instinct, write out of reason. But always for money."
Louis Untermeyer

The Guns of the South

By Harry Turtledove
Ballantine Books, 561 pp, 1992

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 near.

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.

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