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on September 13, 2003
Another page turner by Harry Turtledove continuing the saga that started with How Few Remain, up through the Great War series and now the conclusion of the American Empire series.
All our favorites are back, but time marches on so some of these characters don't (hey, we're now going through the twenties, thirties and forties - life goes on, but not all people, or characters, go on). There are some great twists that readers familiar with characters won't see coming. The character development and story are tight, excellent, finely crafted. Prof. Turtledove does a great job planning these stories and character arcs out. I won't tell you the story - you have to read it yourself.
If you're going to read the book, don't read this review any further. Stop, right now. Ok, but a faithful reader will know where this book ends up. World War 2 is starting and, Harry, keep the books coming. I'm eagerly anticipating the next one especially what happens with the patriots in occupied Canada. I think the US may have a little trouble coming.
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on July 16, 2017
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on May 23, 2004
I have read all of the "Great War" and all of the "American Empire" AH novels by Harry Turtledove , and I have just about had enough! From the novel "Breakthroughs" until this book , we have only had awfully repetitive cameo glimpses into the mundane lives of many characters who seem to have no redeeming qualities whatever.
In the present work , we finally wind up losing some non-essential personae: Nellie Semphroch(Jacobs) , Lucien Galtier , Laura Secord(Moss) , and Sylvia Enos. Some of these characters hung around waaay to long for my taste! We see Colonel Abner Dowling promoted to General officer rank and finally manages to get out of Utah.
Jake Featherston tightens his grip on the Confederacy and emulates real world Germany by the construction of concentration camps, and sets the stage for the upcoming World War II in AH time.
What I liked about the book:
(1) Gets rid of Nelly Jacobs.
(2) Starts to move towards some action in the next volume.
What I disliked about the book:
(1) Many of the statements made by the more essential players were not-so-instant replays of other scenes in earlier books.
(2) The dreadfully slow pace getting there!
Overall I liked this installment better than "The Center Cannot Hold". I suppose I will continue the series , since I am "hooked" on the essential thread. Unfortunatly Turtledove seems to have trouble finishing what he starts , as in the Worldwar/Colonization series. I rated this volume 3 stars , but doesn't come close to 4. Still , not a bad read. Certainly beats watching paint dry , anyhow.
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on December 18, 2003
This book, Turtledove's seventh in this particular universe, is hardly the place to jump into this series. But, if you've read the whole series up to now, you'll want to stick with it.
Yes, some of Turtledove's characteristic flaws are here, notably replaying events from our history in a different geopolitical context rather than inventing a whole new sequence of events. Thus, we get European history between the World Wars reset in a variant North America of the same time rather than postulating, say, no wars or of more limited extent. I suspect Turtledove wanted WWI and WWII taking place in North America and built his alternate timeline to justify that. Another flaw is frequent repetition, as if they were Homeric epithets, of characters' descriptions. And, in this book, he's taken to parenthetically highlighting the moral blindness of some of his characters as if we wouldn't notice otherwise.
Yet, this series continues to hold my interest as the Confederate States of America stand-in for an aggreived Germany and Jake Featherston for Adolf Hitler. Watching several characters being co-opted into supporting the evil, "victorious opposition" of Featherston's regime is the main interest here.
The moral corruption of several of the viewpoint characters as they are co-opted by Jake Featherston is disturbingly plausible. Others, far from the South, clash violently. Some die to be replaced in their viewpoint duties by family members. There are a couple of unnamed historical cameos, and a suicidal Ernie aka Ernest Hemingway shows up again.
One story line seems a bit contrived just to get its character into trouble, and Lucien Galtier and his familial bantering still seem to have little function beyond showing us a man who has largely benefited from the Great War.
But the plight of Scipio, a black man trapped in Featherston's CSA, doesn't seem at all contrived, and his story is the most frightening as his past, his race, and his country threaten his life and his family's
As you would expect, the novel ends with the beginning of war and, no doubt, some unpleasant times ahead for all ... in the next book.
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on September 3, 2003
This book brings us to 1941, and the start of the Second Great War.
Two themes dominate this book--the consolidation of power in the South by the Freedom Party, and the preparation for war by each side (and also by the individual characters). This book is an improvement over the previous two inter-war books--perhaps because the material is more interesting, appalling as the Freedom Party's actions are, they make better reading than the Great Depression.
Turtledove has the sense not to stick too close to the historical script. While the 1936 Olympics in Richmond parallel the ones in Berlin, there is no Jesse Owens analogue (um, incidently, until after WWII, the IOC awarded BOTH Olympics in a given year to the same country routinely. Where were the Winter Olympics held? Miami?). There is no Munich Pact as such, and most of the aggressive moves by the historical Germans are combined into an effort to regain the U.S.'s Great War territorial gains (and not even all of them). There is no Kristallnacht, but no shortage of violence by the Freedom Party on blacks.
Some of our frustration at what seem to be Turtledove's annoying, invulnerable characters is relieved as more than one bite the dust, including one of the most irritating. Their roles as point-of-view characters are inherited by near relatives, alas.
Turtledove gets his characters set for conflict--two of the new characters will be our "typical GI" and "typical sailor" types. We see that we will have a fighter pilot, an intelligence officer, and others giving us viewpoint in war--including a concentration camp head.
The author's introduction of charactes from our own timeline as characters in this is often amusing ("Dutch" Reagan as commentator of a football game causes a character to think of him as a "great communicator"), sometimes obscure (Jerry Voorhis as US Ambassador to the CSA? Will we meet Nixon in the next book?), and sometimes annoying (a philandering Joe Kennedy). Since most of these were born 20-50+ years after the point at which Turtledove's timeline departs from our own, it could be wondered if Turtledove is not undermining his own logic.
There are other quibbles (if the entire black sharecropper class is being thrown off the land by Featherston's tractors, that is far more people than the token homeless we see), but on balance an improvement on previous books. One hopes Turtledove will let the story go its own way in the upcoming books, rather than a slavish retelling of World War II, but that already seems a false hope (with an aircraft carrier for the US getting radar, we seem to be headed rapidly towards a Battle of Midway).
A good effort, and hoping for even better.
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on August 23, 2003
Although they were defeated in the Great War (counterpart to WWI), the Confederate States haven't given up the idea of getting revenge. Now ruled by Jake Featherston (Hitler), the south has began a campaign of genocide against the African Americans, incited rebellion in the territories occupied by the Union, and violated all of their agreements to remain disarmed. THE VICTORIOUS OPPOSITION is the countdown to war with the Union doing everything it can to avoid it--even if it means appeasement.
Author Harry Turtledove has created a powerful alternate reality in the GREAT WAR/AMERICAN EMPIRE series of which this is fifth novel. Aided by Britain and France, the south won the civil war. When the United States allied with Germany during the Great War, France, Britain, and the Confederacy were defeated. Like the Germans in our own reality, the seeds of future violence were planted in that victory.
Turtledove tells his story from the point of view of a number of characters--a builder in Los Angeles, an officer on an aircraft carrier, a lawyer in occupied Canada, a farmer in free Quebec--including several senior officers and politicians. Some of these characters are more interesting than others (and some are dying, having played out their roles in earlier novels). Because Turtledove uses so many characters, he has developed strong character tags--which sometimes step over the barrier into repetition.
While a few of the point-of-view characters fail to move the story along, THE VICTORIOUS OPPOSITION still makes fascinating reading. It is interesting to think of a divided United States (and dramatically different voting patterns within the current U.S. make it even more interesting as readers contemplate a southern President who lies his nation into war) and how a different outcome in the American Civil War would have affected the entire course of history (would we have considered the Austrian reaction to the assassination of the Arch-Duke as justifiable in light of the terrorism that Serbia supported?).
The book could have stood a careful edit and some trimming, but Turtledove's story-telling overcomes these limitations.
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on July 29, 2003
Let me preface this review with praises to Harry Turtledove: the man is an alternate history genuis. He writes books that change this event or that assumption, and fills in what could have happened instead, using research, intelligence, humor, and plenty of interesting characters. I still believe his best book was the very wellspring that brought us this one, the haunting "How Few Remain." HFR set the stage for a seperate Confederate States of America that defeats the USA and serves as both enemy and irritant to their defeated neighbor to the north. The book takes place in the 1880s where an attempt to recapture the CSA ultimately fails.
The three books following HFR are the three "The Great War" series, describing a North American-based WWI between the CSA and its allies Britain and France, and the USA allied with Germany. This book is the third in the "American Empire" series. "Blood & Iron" follows the aftermath of the Great War complete with 1920s-style inflation and the rise of a demagogue. "The Center Cannot Hold" continues the tale, and "The Victorious Opposition" leads us to the brink of WWII, complete with a June 22, 1941 invasion.
While the last date was a slavish following of our timeline, many other events varied. The Republican party died out after the USA's defeat in 1865, and the major US parties are the Democrats and... the Socialists. During the Great War series there is a failed Communist uprising... by CSA blacks (closer to 1905 than 1917). The backstory leading up to this book is so rich with detail that it would be foolish to start with Victorious; it's the third book in a series but really the seventh in the HFR timeline.
And the question is what do you get if you read the previous six books and open up this one? I'm left with the same feeling from "The Center Cannot Hold," namely vertigo from how quickly this novel moves along. If I went back and dated each section of this book, I would expect that most of them are one to three months apart. Turtledove rotates through his major characters such that we might not hear from the same one more than once a "year" or even longer.
Unlike "Center," Turtledove kills off three important people in this work, and moves their viewpoint to a descendent. Just as Arthur McGregor died and we began to follow daughter Mary, new viewpoints emerge with character deaths here. I'll not give away any surprises but I was disappointed that the new characters weren't more different from their predecessors.
The biggest flaw with "Victorious" is one I alluded to in the first paragraph: the slavish devotion to our timeline. Not only is an invasion modeled after Hitler's invasion of Russia, but so are far too many other events. While the Socialists and Democrats move in and out of power (unlike Roosevelt's 4-term presidency), other events stick far too close to reality. CSA is Germany, President Jake Featherstone is Hitler, and the coming Holocaust will be against the blacks. In 1936, the CSA hosts the Olympics in Richmond, and Featherstone has his Freedom Party put their good manners on until the last foreigner leaves. The USA serves several roles, as Russia, as France, as England. It attempts to pacify Occupied Canada (terrority won from England and France during WWI) without complete success.
The other lack is character growth. Lucien still drinks applejack and cracks dry one-liners, Cincinnatus still fears Covington, Kentucky but can't stay away, and Anne Colleton trusts and loves no one. Any change in the characters is due to plot development rather than personal growth or failure, with the exception of Jonathan Moss. He turns into the USA's answer to Arthur McGregor, and for much the same reason (and I suppose it's still due to plot development).
If you've stuck with the series this long, see it through, but I found this one the equivalent of Welch's after drinking claret.
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on August 3, 2003
Harry Turtledove has been producing an alternative history of the twentieth century for a number of years now, and he is just reaching a major turning point, the outbreak of World War II. In Turtledove's world, the Confederacy won the Civil War and things have been going downhill ever since. Now the Confederacy is in the grips of the fascist dictatorship of Jake Featherston and allied with similar right wing regimes in France, Britain, and Tsarist Russia. The United States swings between laissez faire and social democracy, depending on which political party is in power. It has dominated North America since winning the Great War in 1917, but now its control over occupied Canada and the vanquished Confederates is under strain. With its main ally Imperial Germany dealing with the death of its long time leader Kaiser William II, this is not the best of times for the US.
This book brings this interwar trilogy to a close, and apparently is the starting point for yet another series dealing with World War II and the post-war world. These books are fascinating because they provide a mirror image view of our own world, with familiar characters like Ronald Reagan showing up in new but recognizable roles. They also help us to recognize that no matter how badly things seem to be going for us in our world, it could be much, much worse!!!
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on September 2, 2003
Harry Turtledove must think his readers have the attention span of 5-year-olds. Why else would he repeat things over and over and over? It's OK to mention his continuing characters' traits, backgrounds, and motivations once for the sake of readers who are picking up this book without having read the previous books in the series. But to point out the same things virtually every time the character's story comes back up in the book (about a dozen times each, in some cases) is enfuriating. And of course these are the same traits, backgrounds, and motivations that were also repeated ad nauseam in previous books. Does Turtledove think we forget things he mentioned 40 pages previously?
So why to I keep buying these books in hardback and reading them with great interest? Because the alt history genre is so interesting, and this series takes such a macro chunk of familiar 20th century history to mix up and re-assemble. Most alt history is very confined in timespan and geography, but Turtledove's books take us all over the place and cover many years.
I keep hoping (for the most part in vain) that the scope could be even broader... that there will be more information about the happenings in the rest of the world. There are only the briefest of tidbits about England, France, South America, and Japan. He gives so little detail about a war between the U.S. and Japan that it would have been better off not to invent it in the first place. What's the situation with Turkey (the Ottoman Empire) and its presumably incredible oil wealth it controls in the regions of Arabia, Kuwait, and Iraq? Who controls India? Who controls Africa? What's going on in the Confederate state of Cuba?
On the plus side, a couple of the least-interesting characters get killed off. But a few others who do little to advance the plot are still around. I suspect, however, that the new trilogy will bring a slew of new characters. I just hope we don't have to read the same facts about them a dozen time in each book.
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on January 1, 2004
Harry Turtledove's novel, 'American Empire: The Victorious Opposition,' is a real turning point in the expanded series that began with 'How Few Remain.' Jake Featherston, the Confederate Hitler, has come to power in the south and is preparing for his revenge on the USA, and doesn't care who he has to hang from a meathook to get it. Blacks are rounded up and sent to concentration camps along with Featherston's political opponents, holdouts are assassinated, and barbaric party stalwarts are given free reign to spread their message of hate. All of the major characters from the prevoius novels in this series are back, some of them for the last time, and a few new characters take stage as Turtledove's gripping tale of Alternate History continues. Unlike the two proceeding novels, this one is just the right length, not so long that by the end the reader has lost interest. Also, by making Featherston's actions so sweeping, it includes almost all of the characters much more directly. Fans of the series will love this addition, and the tense ending will leave readers howling for more. Another wonderful work of Alternate History by the master.
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