Drive to the East: Settling Accounts, Book 2
Posted by jack_miller | Published 5 months ago
With 114 ratings
By: Harry Turtledove, Paul Costanzo, et al.
Purchased At: $2.81 (47 used & new offers)
In 1914, the First World War ignited a brutal conflict in North America, with the United States finally defeating the Confederate States. In 1917, the Great War ended and an era of simmering hatred began, fueled by the despotism of a few and the sacrifice of many. Now it's 1942. The USA and CSA are locked in a tangle of jagged, blood-soaked battle lines, modern weaponry, desperate strategies, and the kind of violence that only the damned could conjure up for their enemies and themselves.
In Richmond, Confederate president and dictator Jake Featherston is shocked by what his own aircraft have done in Philadelphia - killing US president Al Smith in a barrage of bombs. Featherston presses ahead with a secret plan carried out on the dusty plains of Texas, where a so-called detention camp hides a far more evil purpose.
However, it is not for the savoring of the written word that I read Turtledove (for a higher level of writing from him, try "Ruled Britannia"). Turtledove simply has created an enthralling melodramatic saga that, although full of flaws, grabs those of us who enjoy alternate history. Readers actually using these reviews to guide their purchases should know by now not to start the series here. The individual books do not really stand up by themselves. However, as I titled a review of an earlier installment, the Sum is Stronger than the Parts. The same can be said for this book.
From the Yankee viewpoint, this book is the start of a thrilling triumph of the stuff that made the United States in our universe great. At this point, virtually all White Confederates are debased and corrupted and I imagine many Southerners are offended and disgusted. The battle scenes are relatively brief and offer a mixture of heroism and horror. Greater details of the strategic situation both in North America and the rest of the world along with maps would be extremely welcome, but I doubt that Turtledove has any more hard information for us at this time. The most striking part of the book is the Negro holocaust in the making. While it is hard to accept that it could possibly happen here, this plot line is depressing (in the best sense), painful, and gripping. On a lighter note, I enjoy the brief cameos of historical figures whose path in our universe is not even a dream. Being well versed in baseball history, I especially enjoyed seeing the names of two "running backs," Foxx and Greenberg, being used as a soldiers' password (Turtledove even picked the correct phyical types). I am sure that there are many others I missed.
One complaint I do have is Turtledove's dismissal of baseball as a minor sport seldom worthy of comment. The quality of cigarettes from the U.S.A. and the Confederacy seem to be a running joke among my fellow reviewers. Spoiler Warning! I especially enjoyed the scene near the end where the Confederates trapped in the Pittsburg pocket are reduced to smoking U.S. cigarettes.
There are many problems such following too close to the WWII Eastern front template, repetitive dialogue, and scenes stolen from Turtledove's own Days of Infamy. However at the end of the day, most loyal Turtledove fans will feel that they got their money's worth!
A few techinal glitches pop up that military historians would arch an eyebrow over (automatic small arms turning the tide of so many battles for instance, the German society Turtledove models the South on, had few autmatic rifles) but over all its a good fast read. I read it in less then 3 days...
He is not developing characters as well as he did in earlier books. As they are killed/die off, few are coming forward to replace them. I do hope he will return to improving the characters the books evolve around.
Looking forward to the next books in the series!
Mr. Turtledove assumes that Lee wins a decisive victory in 1862 and America splits into two separate nations. The Confederates win the rematch war in the 1880's (with the help of England and France) while the USA defeats the South in World War I (with the aid of the German Empire). Now the series takes a turn and Mr. Turtledove clearly has the racist South standing in for Nazi Germany in his current trilogy.
This new volume opens in the midst of World War II, start by the CSA launching a surprise invasion of the North in the previous volume ("Return Engagement"). The enjoyment of these books is to see how Mr. Turtledove's imagination works on the changes if America was two nations: as a Southerner, General Patton splits the USA in half with his drive to Lake Erie, Al Smith and Charles LaFollette are the Socialist President/Vice-President of the USA, concentration camps are hidden deep in Texas and so forth.
Mr. Turtledove is not a wordsmith but he is a good storyteller and the map showing the American continent divided into two countries will set the reader thinking. Because this novel opens without any of the vast history of the previous 80 years and only alludes to it, I recommend that the reader start at the begining with "How Few Remain" before reading this book. One can read this novel on its own merits, but the reader would miss the layers of richness that has gone before it.