"great alternative history"
In a world that never was but could haven been, the
Confederacy won the War of Succession and the United States
had to recognize them as a sovereign nation. As the
victors, they imposed certain restrictions on the way the
United States governed itself. When the Great War broke
out, the United States was the winner, wrestling territory
away from the Confederacy and bringing it into the union.
To prevent Britain from ever being a threat in the USA
again, the army marched into Canada and made it a territory
of America. Canada is no longer a recognized country and
all laws and military rules come from the American Army of
Occupation. Texas is part of the CSA but during the Great
War, the US annexed part of the state naming it Houston and
bringing it into the Union. Sequoyah is a part of the USA
but like Houston and Kentucky (which was also forcibly
brought back into the USA) they want to rejoin the CSA.
There are very few blacks in the USA and most of them live
in Kentucky. Former slaves trying to leave the CSA are
turned back at the US border. When the world plunges into
a Depression, the fascist Freedom party elects Jake
Featherston president. He uses strong-arm tactics against
his enemies, takes control of the radio and newspapers and
sets up internment camps for political prisoners and Red
Negroes. He begins building tractors and farm equipment at
a fast rate so that the Black sharecroppers become
redundant. Many resort to fighting a guerrilla war while
others go begging for take menial jobs in the cities.
Under the terms of the 1917 Armistice, the CSA military is
sharply curtailed but Featherston finds ways of getting
around the restrictions. He is slowly building up the
military strength of the CSA to the level it was in 1863.
His freedom party goons are agitating in Sequoyah, Houston
and Kentucky for a plebiscite and the socialist president
of the USA finally allows the people of those states to
vote on whether they want to stay in the USA or leave and
rejoin the CSA. Many people in both countries believe that
another war between the USA and CSA is inevitable.
Harry Turtledove is the recognized grand master of
alternative history and in AMERICAN EMPIRE: THE VICTORIOUS
OPPOSITION; he shows his talent grows with each book he
writes. The Freedom Party can be compared with the rise of
the Nazi Party in our universe and just like the SS
troopers; the high-ranking members in the party use the
same strong-arm tactics to cow the populace. Instead of
Jews being discriminated against, the Blacks are the
scapegoats. France and Russia sided with the confederacy
and when they lost the war, they had to obey the terms of
the armistice but they are unhappy and ready to go to war
again to regain their freedoms. France especially wants to
regain Alsace-Lorraine from Germany but are wary of
fighting the Germans a third time.
The characters in this novel are real people representing
all walks of life so that the reader has a very visual
picture of what life is like in this altered universe that
seems similar but is so very different from our own. The
CSA president is not a likable man and freedom lovers will
despise him but the audience will understand that many of
his constituents want him in office so that he can turn
their country around and make it a world power.
Reviewed by PNR Group Member
Posted July 18, 2003