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Drive to the East (Settling Accounts, Book Two) Paperback – May 30 2006

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 640 pages
  • Publisher: Del Rey; Reprint edition (May 30 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0345464060
  • ISBN-13: 978-0345464064
  • Product Dimensions: 23.4 x 15.7 x 3.5 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 272 g
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #275,835 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
Drive to the East? More like a crawl... Oct. 17 2005
By David Roy - Published on
Format: Hardcover
Harry Turtledove just drives me crazy sometimes. He can come up with some really interesting plots and characters, but his writing just makes me climb the walls sometimes. The plot itself has to be very interesting in order to grab me (which is why I only read one of his series). Settling Accounts: Drive to the East is just like Return Engagement with one exception: my annoyance meter shot through the roof. Turtledove is known for his excessive repetition, but this book just took that repetition to a new level. Add to that the clunky prose and bad dialogue, and you get a book where you really want to know what happens but really have to struggle to get there.

As I have said before about this series, the plotting is wonderful. There are a few too many obvious choices, like having another "Stalingrad" and having Featherston act too much like Hitler in all respects. Overall, though, I like what Turtledove has done with it. There are some little things that bothered me, such as why the there doesn't appear to be any US troops west of Ohio other than in the extreme southwest and fighting in Utah. The Confederates split the country in two, but in reading about what happens, they don't seem concerned at all about anything west of Ohio. The "drive to the east" from the title of the book takes up everything. The US is attacking in Virginia, but that's stalled. What about Illinois and Iowa? Overall, though, Turtledove gives us enough viewpoint characters that we get to see most of what's going on in North America, and that's a good thing. There is one area that we don't get to see, however, and I think that's a shame. I won't reveal it, because it will reveal a character death, but I will say that this character's death happens at just the perfect time to rob us of getting a viewpoint of what's happening in a certain segment of the war. I'm sure Turtledove had his reasons, but it disappointed me.

Especially chilling is that we see the "Final Solution" from the point of view of two characters that we have grown to know over a period of 8 books, characters that we may not love, but we do know. We've seen their prejudices, but having become familiar with them, it's hard to swallow them buying into all of this (not to mention that one of them actually is the idea-man behind it!). It's easier to look at monsters like that when we don't know anything about them, and I found those scenes uncomfortable, but in a good way. I like it when an author can do that to me.

Everything above was great, and it made me really want to read the next book. He left a couple of characters on cliffhangers, killed off a couple of other characters, and gave us a new viewpoint character. I liked how we got the black experience with two men who are in the thick of all the fear that this atmosphere brings.

Yet this book was a struggle to get through. First, Turtledove's style, at least in this series, is a "down home country bumpkin" kind of style, even in the narration. The dialogue is the same way, and it was extremely irritating. Too many "I'd like to say you are wrong, but I can't, because you're right" type of statements. Most of the prose just grated on me. But this is par for the course with Turtledove, at least for me.

Also par for the course is the amount of repetition, both in dialogue and narration. However, Turtledove must have hit the "overdrive" button on this one, as it is almost everywhere in this book. I can't count the number of times he mentions men looking around for a ditch to hide in when airplanes are above. I wish I could tell you how many times, when we're either looking at Featherston or Potter (the spymaster), that we hear the wrestling metaphor for the current situation. Ideally, the Confederate surprise attack would have knocked the US out of the war immediately, but since the US has refused to give in despite being divided, the Confederacy is now wrestling the US in a match it can't win without a knockout blow. Turtledove teases us by mentioning, yet again, Sam Carstens' need for zinc oxide to avoid sunburn, but then he only mentions it one more time in the book. I thought we were saved, but instead, he decides to repeat everything else in the book. At almost 600 pages now, this book could have been a bit shorter and less padded without all of this.

It's a really good thing I care about most of the characters (now that Turtledove has killed off most of the annoying ones), or I wouldn't have been able to finish the book. As it was, Drive to the East was a slog, like walking through the mud of No-Man's Land in the Great War (which he also continually references). I'm in this story to the end, as I really want to see how it turns out (and whether Atlanta or Charleston is going to get nuked). But my head may be horribly bruised by the time I'm done with it, from banging my head against the wall too much.

David Roy
26 of 30 people found the following review helpful
Present in Turtledove's alternative past Aug. 10 2005
By Mark Klobas - Published on
Format: Hardcover
There is a good deal to like in Turtledove's latest installment of his ongoing alternative history saga of a divided America. The second volume of the "Settling Accounts" series picks up right where the last one left off, with the United States and the Confederate States at war once again. The American president is dead and the Confederate drive through Ohio has split the U.S. in two. Yet with a new president the war continues, and Turtledove entertains with his own version of the Second World War, following a number of characters from the previous volumes as they fight and live through the conflict.

There is an interesting new note to this volume. The Mormon revolt in Utah - an ongoing subplot that dates back to the initial volume in the series - produces a new weapon that is more familiar to readers from today's headlines than from histories of World War II. It seems that Turtledove has decided to introduce an element of 21st century warfare to his 1940s battlefield as a way of commenting on current events, suggesting his own attitudes to today's violence. It will be interesting as well to see if he develops this idea further in the next volume.

Yet as enjoyable as the novel is, it suffers from a degree of sloppiness. Some of the sloppiness is error borne of too little research - I doubt that his alternate U.S. would name a destroyer escort after a Southerner, for example - while some seems to be of exhaustion. Compared to the initial volumes of the series there seems to be a growing degree of repetitiveness in this book, not just of the last installment (a little understandable due to the need to refresh readers from what happened previously) but within the book itself. Observations and even plot developments are recycled and rehashed almost as if Turtledove is simply trying to fill space. While I'm as eager for the next volume as any other fan of the series, I would be willing to wait a little longer if it led to a novel of the caliber of "How Few Remain." Though this book may develop the tale he started with that work, it seems to be a little hollow by comparison.
11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
Pretty good, but not as good as it could have been Dec 25 2005
By Peter Hobson - Published on
Format: Hardcover
I've been reading this entire series with pleasure. Unfortunately, there are a few things in this particular book that jar me.

I'm a retired U.S. Navy Chief so I know how warships operate. Turtledove emphasizes that the mustang Lieutenant, Sam Carsten, doesn't know shiphandling. Apparently, Turtledove thinks that shiphandling means standing at the wheel and steering the ship. Officers don't do that. In the U.S. Navy, helmsmen are junior seamen. The Officer of the Deck (OOD) directs them. That's because shiphandling involves a whole lot more than just steering. Navigation, ship's speed, and general shipboard routine are controlled by the OOD. He (nowadays, or she) cannot get distracted by the full-time job of keeping the bow pointed in the right direction.

Turtledove seems to think that his readers can't remember details. Believe me, Harry, we don't have to be told every 20 pages that Northern tobacco tastes like horse droppings and Southern tobacco is ambrosial. We don't have to told time after time that Yossel Reissen's aunt is Congresswoman Blackford but he doesn't use that connection because it wouldn't be right. We only have to be told once that Sam Carsten sunburns easily. We can actually recall that stuff all on our own.

I'd love to know what is happening in the rest of the world. There's a war going on in Europe that's barely mentioned. For that matter, we don't really know what's happening in Canada.

Now that I've got my whines done, I must say that I enjoyed "Drive to the East" and I'm looking forward to the next book in the series.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
Strongest Turtledove Alt. History in years Oct. 4 2005
By booksforabuck - Published on
Format: Hardcover
The south has cut the United States in half, blitzkrieging to Lake Erie, but the US fights on. Recognizing that the Confederate States lacks the manpower or industrial resources of the north, Confederate President Jake Featherston and his generals come up with an ambitious plan to cripple the US's industrial capacity by striking at the heart of her steel industry--Pittsburg. With new barrel (tank) designs, the south rips another dramatic offensive--before getting bogged down in house-to-house fighting in Pittsburg. In the meantime, the US is filled with other frustrations. Japan has captured Midway and is striking at the Sandwich Islands (Hawaii), Utah is in rebellion as the Mormon community attempts to create an independent country in the heart of the American west, and occupied Canada, the only route connecting the east coast with the west, is in revolt.

In the south, Featherstone has embarked on an ambitious plan to eliminate the black population entirely, replacing black workers with machinery and with Mexican guest workers. Although the US protests against Confederate genocide, few are that sympathetic. The plight of the black community is seen as an internal Confederate problem.

As with most Harry Turtledove alternate history, the story is told from multiple viewpoint characters. Civilians, enlisted soldiers on both sides, politicians, generals, terrorist bombers, concentration camp guards, and black workers make up the cast. When this system works, it provides a kaleidoscope view of an entire world--and it works quite well in DRIVE TO THE EAST. Turtledove has reigned in his cast to a manageable number, killed off some of the more annoying, and narrowed the focus of his work.

Students of history will enjoy Turtledove's continued exploration of a world where the south won the Civil War, allied with France and England, and in turn created an alliance between the US and Germany/Austria-Hungary. Turtledove doesn't hesitate to use history from our own timetrack to reflect back on his alternate. The Pittsburg offensive closely parallels Hitler's Stalingrad offensive during World War II, and Featherstone's genocide parallels Hitler's 'final solution' attempt to wipe out Europe's Jewish population.

Turtledove is no bright-eyed utopian. Although the U.S. is clearly the more sympathetic side here, Turtledove's technique of focussing on multiple viewpoint characters lets us see the war from multiple sides. From their standpoint, the actions of terrorist bombers, genocidal maniacs, and ordinary soldiers on every side in the war make sense--seem almost inevitable.

A few flaws marr Turtledove's work. Featherstone's decision to continue the Pittsburg offensive against the advice of his generals seemed inconsistent with the character Turtledove has created--although being necessary to exactly parallel the Stalingrad operation. One of Turtledove's style techniques--the repeated use of phrasology along the lines of 'The bed might have been more comfortable than if he'd been sleeping on wood slats. Might have, but might not have,' gets repetitious and tends to draw the reader from the story. Similarly, repeated information about both sides shooting up Red Cross ambulances, about the peculiar gurgle of poison gas shells, and the discomfort of the rubber protective suits used to protect against nerve gas helped bloat the book.

Fortunately, however, these flaws don't detract from the overall power and scope of Turtledove's DRIVE TO THE EAST. DRIVE was the best Turtledove alternate history I've read in years.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
Slogging through the saga...but back-sliding Sept. 19 2005
By Marcus A. Devine - Published on
Format: Hardcover
There are many of us who started this journey with Harry back in 1997 with HOW FEW REMAIN and, like many of the other readers who commented, I must also agree that the series is rapidly sinking into predictability and repetition.

Harry is also attempting to cull out some of the characters and streamline the story. But in doing so, he reduced the tale to a parochial one. The story doesn't have the "world view" feeling it once did. There is no longer a global perspective.

With the death of Mary McGregor Pomeroy, the link to the Canadian story is dead, and he makes only passing references to the "simmering rebellion". A perfect opportunity to create new characters is squandered.

Sam Carsten, a colorful character up to this point, seems to have been relegated to obscurity.

The repetition of dialogue and descriptive text is almost maddening. Harry...your readers already know that:

1. There isn't a pane of glass left in Richmond

2. The USA is bigger than the CSA

3. It isn't safe for negroes to walk the streets

4. Featherstone Fizzes start barrels on fire by leaking into the engine compartments

5. It is hot in Andersonville

6. The gas shells make a gurgling sound as they fly through the air

7. Pinkard hates getting calls from Richmond

8. etc, etc, etc.

On the plus side, Armstrong Grimes is very interesting and the horrifying "Final Solution" story of Scipio has me biting my nails.

It is a good book, but the quality we have come to expect is clearly not there. Let's hope that SETTLING ACCOUNTS: THE GRAPPLE takes a turn for the better and we see a bigger perspective, MUCH better dialogue, and less repeat words.