19 December 2007

One of the better, if grimmer, novels in Turtledove's Southern Victory series

Drive to the East (Settling Accounts, book 2)
Harry Turtledove
Del Rey, 2005

In Drive to the East, Harry Turtledove has written one of the better Southern Victory novels since he crafted the spectacular opening salvo, How Few Remain. Alas, given the nature of modern warfare and barbarism, this novel is far grimmer than most of its predecessors. The black holocaust is in full swing in the Confederate States; Turtledove's accounts of the emptying of entire cities and the coldblooded extermination of men, women, and "pickanninies" is chilling. As other reviewers have noted, Turtledove also addresses more modern concerns in this novel, suicide bombings on the part of the outclassed Mormons and Confederate blacks being the most obvious example.

While I hestitate to speculate on Turtledove's personal feelings about warfare, it seems apparent to me in reading this series thus far that he is not taken in by facile romanticizing of conflict and bloodshed. His use of perspectives from varying races, classes, nationalities, etc., provide a rich, multifaceted narrative and his style is compelling, as is expected.

I look forward to reading the next two volumes in the series, to see how this increasingly different 20th century will unfold. Unfortunately, I don't think it will be pretty.

(This review was originally written on June 28, 2006.)

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