Recently, I finished up the last book in Harry Turtledove’s Southern Victory/Timeline-191 series. While they were fascinating reads initially, I put down the later books more and more to read other stuff.
I enjoy well written alternate history. Turtledove’s earlier works, the Alternate History/Sci-Fi novel “Guns of the South” and the two novels covering the Japanese occupation of Hawaii following the Pearl Harbor attack (“Days of Infamy” and “End of the Beginning“), convinced me that this relatively long series was worth adding to my “to read” list.
What I did like was the alternative world that Turtledove built, because you could imagine that this would’ve happened if the South won the Civil War (“War of Succession” in the books). He also illustrates the difference of this world by using different words for objects. For example, “wireless” instead of “radio,” “Y-range” instead of “Radar,” “Barrel” instead of “Tank,” and “superbomb” instead of “atom bomb.”
Even though the world he built was vivid and full of characters with different personalities, I did have some complaints the more I read into the series.
First, It was galling to read over and over again about how the Northern tobacco was terrible in comparison to the South’s. It seemed as though Turtledove needed to keep mentioning this just to boost his word-count (the biggest complaint on Amazon’s reviews actually). Second, some of the secondary characters were in the story much longer than necessary (the coffeehouse owner who was a former whore and hated men because of it, and the well-educated black butler are examples). Turtledove seemed to realize this in the midst of writing and remedied this problem by abruptly killing the character off. Third, he tried really hard to create in the CSA a Nazi Party analog, the rise of a Hitler-like character, and the set up for the later genocide of “undesirables.” However, the effort fell flat. No matter what this Party did in his books, the real world Nazis did things much more brutally and efficiently. I’ve read enough about Nazi Germany to know this for a fact. Finally, it felt as though he rushed out the later books just to finish up and get the arc over with, as the quality of the writing wasn’t up to par with his earlier books.
Overall, I did enjoy the books. So if you’re interested in alternative history, this series is worth checking out.
A full review of each book (or series) would give away much of the story and plot, so I list a main point or two from each of the books.
- Twenty years after the South defeated the North, war breaks out once again due to the CSA purchasing some territory from Mexico
- Covers what happens on the American continent after the assassination of the Archduke; where the USA and the CSA are drawn into fighting each other due to their respective alliances to Germany and France/Britain
- Also, graphically details the horrors of trench warfare happening in America
- These novels correspond to the Roaring Twenties and the Great Depression years
- These final four, and the longest of the bunch, novels cover the lead up to the second World War, the actual fighting, and its conclusion following the deployment of nuclear bombs