Solely because of all the recent posts here and on The Books That Time Forgot about Harry Harrison’s Stars and Stripes trilogy, I thought I’d post something on Harry Turtledove’s How Few Remain, the start of a long series about how an alternate American Civil War ensnares the country in European politics.
It also features a war between Britain and America, but nowhere near as easily decided or clear cut as Harrison’s trilogy.
Raw Feed (1997): How Few Remain, Harry Turtledove, 1997.
Not a sequel to Turtledove’s Guns of the South
, this alternate history uses as its hinge the non-loss of Confederate battle plans at Antietam. (In our world, the plans were lost, but General McClellan didn’t use them to full extent.) The Confederacy gains a substantial victory, and the French and British intervene in the war, and a peace is forced with the Confederacy gaining independence.
The book jumps forward to 1881 when a Second War Between the States breaks out after the Confederacy purchases Sonora from Emperor Maxmillan of Mexico. The USA doesn’t want the CSA having access to two oceans. Turtledove does an adequate job with the battle scenes (though not as good as his Worldwar series) and the setup competent but not real inventive.
It was with this book that I realized that Turtledove’s true talent in alternate history lies not in creating his initial scenarios or the details of his worlds (though he does a good job with these) but in piling detail up on detail, interior monologue upon dialogue and action to create very vivid, well-realized alternate versions of historical personages. He did this with Robert E. Lee in Guns of the South and here with Abraham Lincoln who seems utterly convincing as a Marxist labor agitator. He also does a good job with Count Alfred von Schlieffen, military observer who is appalled at the lack of planning and sophistication in the US military.