I must admit that I have had this book on my bookshelves for a few years. I actually no longer recall how I came to own the book--whether it was given to me, picked up at a used bookstore/booksale or simply wandered into our shelves. I do recall that when I worked at a library many moons ago, one of the other librarians said her son loved Turtledove's books and Guns of the South happened to be one of his favorites because he was a Civil War buff. That is perhaps why the book remained on my bookshelf for years and never got passed on despite me not reading it.
I possibly didn't pick the book up sooner because I have not long been a fan of science fiction/fantasy, but have gradually come to appreciate the genres more. The reading was slow going on my part, but that had nothing to do with the book as much as it did my abnormally hectic summer schedule.
It's January of 1864, and General Robert E. Lee faces defeat because the Army of Northern Virginia is ill-equipped, cold, starving, and ragged. The defeat at the Battle of Gettysburg has cost the Confederacy dearly and decimated their numbers, leaving the Confederacy even more vulnerable to Grant's Army of the Potomac and military prowess.
What would happen though if a stranger appeared through time and offered Lee the ability to turn the tide and alter the course of history by supplying the Army of Northern Virginia and the rest of the Confederate Army with an unlimited supply of a single piece of modern weaponry? What would the North American continent be like divided into three countries (Canada, the United States, and the Confederate States of America)? What possible motivation could these men from the future have in coming back in time to alter the course of history?
While I must admit that despite the historical accuracy of the way characters were portrayed and some of the language used in the text, I cringed a bit at the beginnings of this book as I read of the treatment of slaves. However, I think Turtledove does an excellent job of balancing an exploration of the impact of slavery--an issue that divided even members of the Confederacy--and the issue of states rights. Turtledove does an exceptional job of character development, especially with the character of General Robert E. Lee, whose own letters Turtledove drew on to open the novel and then to help him develop Lee's character--a character imbued with a sense of both dignity and the overpressing need to always do his "duty". Turtledove's treatment of Lee's relationship with his invalid wife Mary Lee is well done. Even many of the minor characters in the novel get wonderful attention to detail paid to them.
Guns of the South is an intriguing look at a past that never was. Imagine, if you will, that it is January of 1864, and you are General Robert E. Lee. The manpower of your ragged and ill-equipped army has been severely depleted by the devastating defeat that it suffered at Gettysburg. Then, a strange man with an accent that you can't quite place comes to you with an unbelievable offer. He demonstrates for you an amazing weapon with an incredible rate of fire that the Union army's Spencer carbine rifles cannot come close to matching, and guarantees you an unlimited quantity of this weapon and the ammunition for it.
The weapon is an AK-47. Suffice it to say, this changes everything. The South wins the Civil War. Then they realize that they have a new and perhaps more dangerous enemy
Harry Turtledove's book is an intriguing work of alternative history, with just a dash of science fiction thrown in for good measure. While it is definitely an entertaining and fast paced read, it also gives the reader a good look at the central issues behind the Civil War (referred to in the book as The Second American Revolution). While slavery is an obvious issue, this book tries to focus on other issues as well, among them the South's opinion that it had the right to govern itself.
I thoroughly enjoyed the book, and I look forward to reading more of Mr. Turtledove's work. *****!
This is a classic Turtledove work as well as the classic work in alternative history. Whatever your stance on the American Civil War, this book will appeal to you without getting too tied up in the mechanics of how such a thing could happen. A real page turning you will not be able to put down.
Interesting story. You have to suspend a lot of belief to read this type of alternate history but it still makes for an interesting story. I enjoyed the characters and their stories. The stories of the guys from the future might make a good book as well but it was best left out of this one. Being born and raised in the south I am very aware of the stereotypes assigned to the south by much of the country and this book doesn't go there.
This is the book that got me addicted to the alternate history genre. Although the way the South wins is a lot less believable than in Turtledove's later book How Few Remain, it is a page turner for sure.
Harry Tutledove is the master of alternative history. In this story the South is about to lose the Civil War when some visitors out of time supply them with modern weapons. After winning the war the mysterious visitors try to take over the Confederacy and have to be battled by the CSA.
I greatly enjoyed this alternative history novel, brimming with dark ironies and intriguing re-writes of the events of the War Between the States. Turtledove brings characters to life in a rivetingly emotional sense, sharing their inner, emotional selves with the reader, who is compelled to sympathize with them and join their struggle to "do the right thing". I found the book creative, entertaining, and perhaps thought-provoking - the ethics of war, slavery, deceipt, and community loyalty are constant themes which give the reader a more involved experience.
I would only caution the reader that I found the ending dissatisfying. I feel that a book focused on ethical themes should conclude with a strong ending, reflective of the consequences of the characters' ethical actions. This one doesn't, which may not bother you.
Disclaimer - I am not a historian or even a student of history. I cannot speak to the historical accuracy of any events or persons in the novel, so if you are a historian who cringes at historical inaccuracies I cannot help you assess this novel.
January 1864--General Robert E. Lee faces defeat. The Army of Northern Virginia is ragged and ill-equipped. Gettysburg has broken the back of the Confederacy and decimated its manpower.
Then Andries Rhoodie, a strange man with an unplaceable accent, approaches Lee with an extraordinary offer. Rhoodie demonstrates an amazing rifle: its rate of fire is incredible, its lethal efficiency breathtaking--and Rhoodie guarantees unlimited quantities to the Confederacy.
The weapon is called an AK--47 . . .