Book Review: Guns of the South (1992 by Harry Turtledove)

5933If you like historical fiction with a dash of science fiction yet mostly a history of what the South would be like without losing to the Union, then this book is for you.

What I appreciated about Turtledove is how he did not make a big issue about 21st century politics from the white racists who stole a time machine and traveled to the waning days of the US Civil War.

Not only was there a lot of emphasis on life in the trenches, military strategy of Grant and Lee, but also what the parties at Jeff Davis’s house were like, what the slaves thought (not enough on this view) and following the life of Nate Claudell and Molly Bean (a woman who dresses as a man to fight in the war, and parttime “whore”) and what they go through in all this.

The Afrikaans want a white racist state that will ally itself with Nazi Germany in the future. They settle in to a town called Rivington (fictional) and immediately begin their reign of terror not only on the Union, but their manipulation of the men and women of the South. Pretty intense story here.

The Afrikaans though are a bit cardboard characters; Turtledove does not build them up to any great degree. There are funny moments as when he introduces the Confederate soldiers to instant coffee and freeze-dried meals.

The discovery of 20th century books, the way General Lee uses the information of the future to help not only his own political ends but the ends of his country are fascinating. The Afrikaans really shoot their own foot – if they were trying to create a slave state, why were they treating the Black man so badly – worgotsmap1880se so than the Confederates were!

Final Note: Some may bristle a bit in making the South the good guys in this story, but frankly they were really coming of age as a nation, realizing what they were doing not only with demanding slave rights but also state rights, and realizing they were part of a global economy (pretty radical in 1868!).

The fates of Lincoln, Grant, and even Hayes are revealed. Check it out, not a bad read.


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