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The Great War Continues
Harry Turtledove, the grand master of alternate history, adds The Great War: Breakthroughs, another enthralling tale of global conflict, to his Great War tetralogy (The Great War: American Front, The Great War: Walk in Hell). Turtledove presents the reader with several historically familiar characters and events plucked from the past that are cultivated in the vivid detail of his imagination and meticulous research. Here we have numerous political entanglements, dozens of protagonists, and a shocking atmosphere that grows ever more alarming until several countries around the planet lie on the brink of devastation. With bestsellers such as How Few Remain, The Guns of the South, and his other recent efforts Colonization: Second Contact and Into the Darkness, Harry Turtledove proceeds to draw his readers into warring worlds of neverwhen as his already incredible skills at providing an innovative but authentic tapestry develop even further.
Now, in The Great War: Breakthroughs, the story line has continued to unfold and becomes even more captivating than that in the first two volumes. As the Great War continues to ravage a divided North America, the Union seeks to garner revenge upon the Confederate States of America for its two humiliating past defeats. The once stable truce between the Confederate States of America and the Union has been smashed now that all of North America has been drawn into the global conflict. The year is 1917, and Germany stands as victor over Austria, France, and much of the rest of Europe. The South has not only won the Civil War but also a second civil war decades later, and the Union will risk everything to destroy its southern enemy.
Industrial technology has risen to include planes, flamethrowers, and submarines, making the Great War even more horrific for both the military and civilians trapped by the battles. Slave uprisings have led to greater social upheaval as they attempt to form their own republic. Confrontations occur in the seas as enemy navies clash. Teddy Roosevelt and General Custer are now forced to fight on two fronts. Canada and Great Britain have formed an alliance to attack from the north, where soldiers do their best to survive the atrocities of trench warfare at the Canadian border. And to the south, Custer is forced to make a courageous and perhaps insane thrust into Confederate territories through miles of lethal blockades.
As with his Civil War alternate history novels and his WorldWar series, Harry Turtledove propels The Great War: Breakthroughs by giving historical figures complicated personalities that hold our interest. As the war diversifies across the globe with the addition of hideously new engines of destruction, Turtledove piles bloody incidents on top of one another, weaving a vast but ultimately very personal story. The complex, multi-viewpoint saga presents perspectives from both sides of the war, as well as from civilians caught up in the ghastly events. Scenes rapidly switch between person to person, country to country, president to soldier.
Details of warfare occasionally take a backseat as social changes become more and more prevalent. We become involved with personal struggles and issues of freedom and liberty, vengeance and glory. There are dozens of primary and secondary protagonists, each with his own thoughts, hopes, and fears concerning the conflict. Frequent swaps in points of view show us the awful choices that must be made on a day-to-day basis by neighbors, family, and countrymen. The forthcoming fourth and final novel in the tetralogy will focus on the aftereffects of the great war upon the world and how nations and their people must rebuild, realign, and forgive.
The panoramic effect Turtledove always establishes in his novels works an extra level of realism to the plot, demonstrating the carnage on a worldwide scale while showing us the effects on people we've come to care about. The Great War: Breakthroughs is a powerful addition to this compelling series of a bloody war reminiscent of our own nightmarish past.
Tom Piccirilli is the author of eight novels, including Hexes and Shards, and his Felicity Grove mystery series, consisting of The Dead Past and Sorrow's Crown. He has sold more than 100 stories to the anthologies Future Crimes, Bad News, The Conspiracy Files, and Best of the American West II. An omnibus collection of 40 stories titled Deep into That Darkness Peering has just been released by Terminal Fright Press. Tom divides his time between New York City and Estes Park, Colorado.