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Saturday, February 18, 2006

Right-Wing Critique of the Week

Harry Turtledove is the unrivalled master of alternate history. I haven't read as many of his books as I should have, but I have read the first seven in his "Timeline 191" series.

In 1862, or thereabouts, Robert E. Lee's 'Special Order 191' was intercepted. This allowed the normally poor General McClellan to force the battle of Antietam, which aborted Lee's attempt to capture Washington, D.C.

The premise of the series is that the order was not intercepted. This small, perfectly reasonable change cascades into the North losing the civil war. The first book of the series, "How Few Remain," covers a short and localised border clash between the Union and Confederacy. The next three books pit the two against each other in World War I. So on and so forth.

The series is truly excellent, although Turtledove has a few quirks of prose that occasionally bother me.

The South seems to have the moral high ground through the first few books, although Turtledove himself does not make this observation. It is more of a judgement made by the reader (me). Let's be honest, we all secretly think the South deserved to win, right? We're lucky that it turned out as well as it did, even though Lincoln created the American Empire we know and loathe in the process of... creating the American Empire. What reason did he have to invade? It wasn't to free slaves. Although he might have wished to do so, he wouldn't sacrifice 600,000 white men to do it.

For that matter, why did the South fire on Fort Sumter? Couldn't there have been a more pragmatic solution?


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