American Empire: The Victorious Opposition

I’ve reviewed a lot of Turtledove, almost all of them in the middle of some series. But then most Turtledove novels are in the middle of a series.

Still, they seem to be appreciated.

A retro review from December 18, 2003 …

Review: American Empire: The Victorious Opposition, Harry Turtledove, 2003.Victorious Opposition

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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