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Posted June 9, 2006
Lack of Dramatic Content
Howard Means knows how to write because he keeps you fairly interested in the story. However, there is a certain lack of dramatic content throughout which does not appear until the end of the book. We find out little about what the Senate, House, newspapers or the Southern general public thinks about the current state of events. And, for a book on alternate history, his desciptions of the current world beyond his characters is sketchy. Such as: Is Nathan Winston the first Black VP? What is the rest of the CSA like beyond Richmond? What is the rest of the North like beyond North Adams? The book is populated by too few main characters and some of the main characters (Haddon and Cara) disappear for 75 pages or more before returning again. Means is too focused on Spencer Lee & Nathan Winston and not enough on the world of the CSA. By adding a little politcal intrigue, more in depth (and alternate) descriptions of the world and a stronger police investigation, this could have been a blockbuster. Instead, it is just a curiosity piece to go along with the other ho-hum What If books.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted June 7, 2006
Good Thriller, Terrible Alternate History
As an alternate history, this book is perhaps the worst I've ever seen. The breakpoint from our own timeline comes in March of 1865, when Confederate soldiers were starved, dressed in rags, outnumbered, outgunned, and on their collective last legs. But an elaborate suicide ceremony conducted by Jefferson Davis so boosts their morale that, without any material aid, they are able not only to drive Grant's and Sherman's armies completely out of the South but actually conquer the north. Robert E. Lee becomes a military dictator, a dark, brooding figure. Nathan Bedford Forrest succeeds him, and this slave trader turned Klan founder becomes so enlightened that he lays the framework for a biracial society--thoroughly segregated, but with equality between the races in terms of both influence and circumstances in a very carefully maintained balance. This system remains in effect until 2000, and it's here that the book's true strengths lie. Throughout Confederate society there can be found malcontents who chafe under the strictures of so thoroughly segregated a society, both blacks and whites. These actors set in motion developments which will rock this venerable society to its core. As a political thriller, this book ranks among the best I've ever read. In fact only one other can compare. As a thought experiment, one which bravely considers possible alternative solutions to racial tensions in America, this book has its strengths. It is not some racist's flight of fancy indeed, every one of the book's *sympathetic* characters, in the end, pushes for integration in some form or other. Finally, as a novel, it is an entertaining read. In short, this book carries my recomendation, though you'd do well to forget you're reading an alternate history and just imagine it's set in some sort of parallel universe. If all you're interested in is alternate Civil War stories, however, look elsewhere.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted December 26, 2002
Lack of dramatic content
Howard Means keeps you turning pages, however, there is a lack of dramatic content throughout this book which does not appear until the end. We find out little about what the Senate, House, newspapers or the general public thinks about the current state of events. And, for a book on alternate history, Means' descriptions of the current world beyond his two main characters is surprisingly sketchy, at best. Such as: Is Nathan Winston the first Black VP? What is the rest of the CSA like beyond Richmond? What is the rest of the world really like beyond the defeated North? The book is populated by too few main characters and some of them (Clark Haddon and Cara) disappear for 75 pages or more before returning again. Means is much too focused on his two main characters of Spencer Lee and Nathan Winston. By adding a little political intrigue and more in-depth (and alternate) descriptions of the CSA and the world, this could have been a great book.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.