While I’m posting Harry Turtledove material, I might as well fill in some holes in my coverage of his long alternate history series that began with How Few Remain.
Incidentally, since this is entirely an alternate history of the Great War, it’s not going to be covered in my World War One in Fantastic Fiction posts.
Raw Feed (1999): The Great War: American Front, Harry Turtledove, 1998.
Turtledove uses his usual technique of a multitude of characters to provide a variety of views in this novel about the American front of an alternate WWI. This technique, with its rapid alternation between viewpoint characters, makes this thick book read fast, but I had a few quibbles.
First, with the exception of Woodrow Wilson, George Armstrong Custer, Theodore Roosevelt (Wilson and Roosevelt are presidents of the Confederacy and USA, respectively), and Leonard Wood – all briefly glimpsed and none viewpoint characters – we see no historical characters, just fictional ones. Some of the internal dialogue of characters verges close, but doesn’t cross the line, of excessive folksiness. Also, we get few scenes of combat and then those scenes are not that detailed. Also, we get no viewpoint characters who are combatants from European powers.
Still, Turtledove uses his characters well to show most aspects of the war (including the scenes of Cherokees, solid members of the CSA, fighting with Confederate officers) and not just naval and land and air combat but the various ways civilians react including sabotage, espionage, and collaboration when conquered. But the most powerful and disturbing bits are the visions of a USA, under the influence of its German ally (it’s amusing to hear Roosevelt’s support of German culture given our history), become, since the Second War Between the States, a bureaucratic, paper-laden tyranny. Second is the influence of Marxism in both the US and CSA. In How Few Remain, Lincoln spread the word of Marx and, it’s revealed here, his actions ultimately led to the socialists splitting off from the Republicans. They have to decide, in typical Marxist fashion, that Britain and France are more reactionary than the Kaiser. In the CSA, slaves and Southern factory workers in the aristocratic South (the most dislikeable character is a rich Southern belle named Anne Colleton) understandably embrace Marxism, and the novel ends with the beginning of an armed black uprising.