Sunday, December 29, 2002

 
HARRY TURTLEDOVE: MASTER OF ALTERNATE HISTORY

I'm currently reading Turtledove's Walk in Hell, the second book in his "The Great War" series, an alternative version of WWI. In his fictional world, the Confederacy had successfully seceded in the 1860s, with the help of Britain and France, then fought a second war against the rump USA in the 1880s and won. Now it's 1914, a Serbian shoots an Austrian archduke, and the Confederate States of America join with their traditional allies, Britain, France and Canada, in all-out war against the USA and its allies, Germany and Austria-Hungary. The end result is WWI-style trench warfare on the North American contintent, as well as aerial and naval battles, in places like Pennsylvania, Kentucky, Maryland, Virginia, Tennessee, Oklahoma, Ontario, Quebec, and Manitoba.

Interestingly enough, I find that certain aspects of this series resonate in today's real world, as our illegitimate "government" pushes the USA towards war against Iraq. Turtledove doesn't shy away from depicting the manmade horror that is war, and his characters struggle with the ultimate meanings of such terms as "loyalty" and "patriotism." While reading "Walk in Hell," as well as the first book in this series, "American Front," I'm often reminded of former President Carter's recent remark: "War may sometimes be a necessary evil. But no matter how necessary, it is always an evil, never a good. We will not learn to live together in peace by killing each other's children."

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