Wednesday, June 21, 2006

How Few Remain

My wife is fond of dragging me to "thrift stores" to go shopping. Luckily, her favorite has a large book and record section, so I can usually stand about thirty minutes in the place. A few weeks ago, I found a book called How Few Remain, by Harry Turtledove, about the second war between the Confederate States of America and the Union.

Now, I know what you're thinking: "There was only one war between the states, and the Confederates lost." Turtledove, however, is known as the master of alternate histories, and this was the second volume about a history where the Confederates won. In another series of books, the US in engaged in World War II, when an alien species decides to invade Earth. Given the situation, Roosevelt and Hitler sign a treaty, and fight the aliens together.

The first of the Civil War series was The Guns of The South. General Lee finds himself at a turning point in the War Between the States. He knows that if he can not pull off a major victory by invading Pennsylvania, then turning on Washington's soft northern flank, than the war is lost and the South is doomed. That's when a man with foreign accent
presents the Confederate Army with the gift of a newly invented rifle. He explains that he, and his associates, have a factory where they can produce the new weapon and ammunition. They call the rifle the AK-47.

In reality, the foreigners are South Africans who are using a time machine the transport weapons from the future, in an effort to keep slavery alive. The Confederates do win the war, but Lee and Nathan Bedford Forest turn on the South Africans when they realize what is happening. Lee follows Jefferson Davis as President of the Confederacy, and emancipates the slaves in order to secure the support of the Europeans.

Time machines, people from the future, advanced weapons out of place on the battlefield... Hey, it's a science fiction book!

Advance twenty years. It's now about 1887, and the USA and CSA are coexisting at best. Tensions are high, and war in rumbling on the horizon. Unfortunately, there are no AK-47s on the battlefield-- instead, everyone has Winchesters and Springfields. And the CSA still has slaves. General Lee is not even mentioned. No time machines.

Hey! This isn't a sequel: its a completely new book based upon the premise that the Confederates just won the Civil War on their own. Well, that's a pretty big leap of faith. In reality, the Confederates didn't actually expect to win the war. For the most part this a book of speculative politic fiction.

The only interesting part so far is that the first US victory was under the command of Custer. He turned the tide of battle by baiting cavalry into an ambush, and chopping them down with his Gatling Guns. Of course Custer was actually killed at Little Big Horn by being ambushed by attacking cavalry... because he wouldn't take his Gatling Guns in the field.

Hopefully, Turtledove has more tricks than irony up his sleeve.

1 comment:

  1. Oh, by the way. I gave up on this book about half way through. Whats funny, is that I was in Borders the other night, and found the newest book in the series, "The Grapple". It claims to be thr third, with "So Few Remain" being the first. This of reinforces my opinion that "So Few Remain" was not the sequel to "Guns Of The South".

    I had read "Guns Of The South" because it was a sci-fi story. The new series is more about political drama. Not my bag.