Mister Turtledove, your Worldwar series was great. The first trilogy of this series was also great.The last two ones, not so. I will read you again but please do not add to this story. Unless the books are 300 pages long, which all your last books should have been.The ideas behind those books are great but I get the feeling that there is no more milk in that cow.
Was this review helpful to you?
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
Good ideas, mediocre writingAug. 29 2007
Christopher R. Magee
- Published on Amazon.com
This book both benefits from the positive aspects of the other books in this series as well as suffers from the same drawbacks. On the positive side, it is a very interesting concept with good ideas. Instead of stopping with the Civil War as most writers do, Turtledove continues to chart a course of alternate history into the present day, culminating in the rise of an American Hitler and a country split into bitter foes. Idea-wise, the book is worthy of four or five stars.
Sadly, like all of his books, this one suffers from his writing style. In a nutshell, he's incredibly repetitive. His dialogue, both internal and external, is always the same, and doesn't add anything to the book. Among the "insights" Turtledove constantly beats us over the head with are the following: Enlisted men think their officers are stupid. Soldiers hope they don't get killed. Every character is surrounded by idiots who can't understand what he's saying. No one likes black people. Everyone swears a lot. Soldiers who have sex with women in the occupied areas will get venereal disease. There's nothing wrong with these ideas in and of themselves, but every character has to think them or say them in every scene. Harry - we get it! You don't need to keep saying the same things over and over. Any time a black person says something that makes sense, the person being talked to is shocked that such a thing could happen. Countless characters blush, turn red or blink when someone says something. A typical scene goes something like this: Soldier A: "You horrible people killed all those Negroes." Soldier B: "It's not like you wanted them in the U.S.A." Then Soldier A blushes. There are about 400 scenes of someone complaining and then the person they are complaining to swearing at them and telling them they can get away with that because their side won. It's just a very unsophisticated level of discourse.
The book also seems a little unbalanced. The war ends about 2/3 of the way through and the last 200 pages are the aftermath. It seems like he's ending it too far from the climax. Yes, we want to know what happened to the characters afterwards, but this is a little much.
Overall, if you've read the other books in this series you'll have to read this one. If you haven't read any of them, and you think you can put up with the writing style, start at the beginning or this one won't make any sense.
12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
A Fitting EndSept. 9 2007
- Published on Amazon.com
Through eleven volumes and nearly 100 years of alternate history, Harry Turtledove has been writing the story of a North America quite different from the one that we've lived in.
It's a world in which the Confederacy won the Civil War in 1862 thanks to a twist in history. In our world, just prior to the Battle of Antietam, a Union solider found a copy of General Robert E. Lee's General Order 191, which revealed the deployment plans of the Army of Northern Virginia as it moved into Maryland and Pennsylvania. Though some historians would argue the point, the discovery of those plans allowed the Union, then commanded by (the generally incompetent) George McClellan to force the Confederates into a battle at Antietam Creek that they weren't ready for. A battle which the Union won, and which became the military victory upon which Lincoln based the Emancipation Proclamation, which changed the entire character of the Civil War, especially in Europe, from an internal American dispute, to a war against slavery.
In Turtledove's universe, that never happened. Instead, the Confederates scored decisive victories in Pennsylvania and, with the help of British diplomatic intervention, gained their independence.
Through ten novels, Turtledove has weaved the story of what a North America dominated by two powerful and antagonistic countries might be like. And it hasn't been a pretty story. A Second Civil War in 1880, which led both countries to seek alliances in Europe. And, when those allies went to war in the early 20th Century, the USA and CSA fought each other in a brutal war that resulted in the CSA being ground down much in the way Germany was after World War I.
In what is apparently the final volume of the series, Turtledove lays bare the consequences of the choices that his characters have made. The destruction of the Confederacy that was anticipated in the last volume becomes inevitable long before the book is over. But that's only part of the story.
The far more interesting question, which many of the characters that we've come to know only start to deal with as the book ends, is what happens next. Will the United States be forced to occupy the former CSA for decades until it finally submits ? Will the people of the CSA ever really accept responsibility for the fact that they supported a man who murdered at least eight million people ? What ever happened to the Canadian rebels ? Or the Mormons for that matter ?
Even though the book stretches more than 600 pages,many of these questions are left unanswered, leading, of course, to the obvious conclusion that there might be at least one more book in the works.
It would be nice to see those loose ends wrapped up, but, in the end, this was a satisfying end to a series resulted from, and has created, more than a few interesting alternative history scenarios.
9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
Not bad. Not at all bad. But Yankee tobacco is still awful.Aug. 3 2007
- Published on Amazon.com
Warning: contains spoilers
Harry Turtledove seems to have stepped back from his standard writing style, full of ticks and repetitions and written "In at the Death" as he wrote 20 years ago when he wasn't managing a handful of serial novels on several timelines -- competently, cleanly, and in good English, if not with the style of a Robert Crais or a Robert Harris, and a lot more enjoyable to read than the previous books in the series. The plotting is very good, and the fates of the central characters about what you would hope for and expect.
Jeff Pinkard gets hanged by the neck until... Good. But even better Turtledove lets Jonathan Moss make a decent defense, one that was legally stronger than "just following orders" allowed at Nuremberg. Whether he meant to or not (and I think it was fully deliberate), HT effectively raises a question still relevant (Darfur, Rwanda, Kosovo) as to just how far national sovereignty governs, and where the international community gets to make laws to fit genocide and other especially abhorrent crimes.
The ex-Navy Chief raised a bunch of questions about HT's total ignorance of the Navy and its methods of operating -- I'm a retired reserve officer from the engineering duty line -- that are the same ones that have bugged me since Carsten started learning to be a "ship handler" officer. I wish somebody had taken HT down to whatever naval base is close to his house and given him a bit of instruction.
I'm also a nuclear physics type, and the description of the CSA weapons project rings very hollow. With just a few lines here and there it could have been made much better. But to the skeptics who say the CSA couldn't have enriched uranium in Lexington, let me say that they didn't. Read it closely; the CSA uses a "jovium bomb" (ie Plutonium), probably a lot like the physics package used over Nagasaki. Still and all, I'm surprised that the reactor survived the bombing. And the notion that both England and Germany got the bomb, and all the countries got their first bombs within weeks of one another, is simply incredible and a very poor plot device. I think I would cut half a star just for that if Amazon would let me.
But there are strange and uncomfortable gaps. What did happen to the Mormons? Did they find Deseret in Hawaii? What about Yossel Reisen, Flora's nephew, or did I miss something? He's just gone. What happened along the railroad in Canada with Mary shot (and a good thing that!)? Did things settle down? I think not.
The CSA surrenders at Appomattox, with General Ironhewer (Who's he? He was parachuted in because HT could translate Ike's last name, and not because he was a pre-existing character -- a poor device) in the role of US Grant and Patton as Lee. But the ceremony is far more Yorktown than either Appomattox or Reims, and probably that's just right. But it wasn't "the world turned upside down."
Still, this is the best book in the Settling Accounts series. The best written, the most satisfactory plotting (gimmicks aside), but with an end that leaves room for a reunited USA to face the Empire of Japan, both armed with nukes, sometime around 1955 or 1965. With the Mormons being the meat in the Sandwich. (Sorry; couldn't resist.)
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
A fitting (and welcome) conclusion to a long storySept. 21 2007
- Published on Amazon.com
I've said it before and I'll say it again--if you've read the rest of the series, then what I have to say probably won't influence you one way or another. As well, it is likely that anything I reveal here won't be a real spoiler. It should come as little surprise that Turtledove's wrap-up involves the deployment of this world's first atomic weapons (a total of nine times worldwide!), the trials and hangings of those responsible for Confederate atrocities, the assassination of CSA President Jake Featherston, the utter collapse of the Confederate States of America, and the permanent occupation/reconquest of these territories by the USA.
What did surprise me is that Turtledove's warring nations unveil their atomic weapons less than halfway into the book. I was expecting that something so paradigm shifting as the birth of the nuclear age would come later in the novel and be used for greater dramatic effect. As it is Turtledove's treatment is much more subtle; after the absolute obliteration of Petrograd ("One bomb. Off the map. G-O-N-E. Gone. No more Petrograd. Gone."), the use of uranium and plutonium/jovium bombs by the different warring nations begin to influence how the POV characters see the world and their places in it. The atomic age begins with a bang and a whimper, as it were. Similarly the assassination of Featherston takes place with little fanfare, as if to suggest that his fall from power was as total as his rise. The novel itself spends much of its second half dealing with the aftermath of the war and the consequences for those in both nations occupying the heart of North America. Although its conclusion leaves the door open for further sequels, I hope that Turtledove is through with this series---frankly, I don't think I can handle further installments. Instead, I hope that the ambiguities and uncertainties the reader faces at the end of this novel are simply indicative of how history is itself constantly in the making, never thoroughly resolved.
Turtledove (or the writing team by that name, if you subscribe to certain authorial conspiracy theories) also seems to have taken fan criticisms to heart with this concluding installment. He avoids overindulging in threadbare comments on the quality of US tobacco and how readily Sam Carsten's skin burns in even the slightest sunshine, for example. This, like its predecessor The Grapple (Settling Accounts, Book 3), had better pacing and was far more engaging than many which came before it, making for a fitting conclusion to an interesting, if overlong, vision of an alternate North America.
11 of 14 people found the following review helpful
Enjoyable ending to Turtledove's longtime seriesAug. 1 2007
- Published on Amazon.com
Harry Turtledove's alternate history series has a lot in common with a summer cinematic blockbuster. They come out like clockwork, offer a good deal of action, but not too much below the surface. The last volume, The Grapple (Settling Accounts, Book 3), was a particularly disappointing entry, as Turtledove seemed to have lost any interest in what was becoming a monotonous series. This, the concluding volume of his "Settling Accounts" quartet, however, is a much more enjoyable addition. Rather than stretching things out further, he wraps up his alternate Second World War between the United States and the Confederacy with a bang -- in fact, with several of them.
At the end of the last volume, the Confederacy was sliding towards what seemed an inevitable defeat, with U.S. forces striking towards Atlanta, General Sherman-style. While Turtledove picks up where he leaves off, he throws in enough twists to keep the story interesting. And though the war ends well before the last page, there is more than enough in the later chapters to satisfy readers who have followed the series from its initial volume, How Few Remain, as the postwar fates of many lasting characters are sketched out for the reader. As a result, while this volume may lack some of the imagination of his "Crosstime Traffic" series, longtime fans of the series will find little to disappoint them here.