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am 31. Juli 2000
This alternate history starts off great with the British war party urging an attack on the United States. Get in there, give the damn colonials what for, says the reader. Sure enough the commander goes over there and attacks the wrong side. I have absolutely no problem with this. There was far worse stupidity and incompetence in the real-life Crimean War a mere 10 years before. There follows a hugely enjoyable scene of mindless slaughter and rape (you don't get many decent rape stories these days) and then the novel falls to pieces. The syrupy sentimentality that seems to afflict all Americans kicks in. The Northern and Southern commanders get together to drive out the dastardly Brits and become the best of buddies and the southereners volunteer to abandon slavery. From then on nothing can go wrong for the Americans and they defeat the British at every turn. What utter bollocks. The two sides would never have been able to sink their differences to that extent and the high command's main concern would have been to keep them from one another's throats. In the Crimea the British and French were more interested in fighting each other than the enemy. In the novel that should have been written we would have seen all this. Slavery wasn't an issue anyway. Lincoln was quite prepared to tolerate it if that would preserve the Union. The trouble is that Harrison is such a good writer. I suspect he popped his clogs afater the Biloxi incident and the book was finished by someone not nearly as good. I have no objection to the two-dimensional nature of the characters. As we never get to know and love them, we can enjoy the senseless massacres that bespatter nearly every page. Neither do I have any problem with the way Queen Victoria is portrayed. The mad old bat was exactly like that. "Butty" for comrade is perfectly good 19th century usage: you work buttock to buttock in the mines. "Buddy" is a later variation.
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am 24. Oktober 1999
What Harrison says in his Afterword is true: the American armies in 1862 were by far the most powerful fighting force in the world; military observers from all major countries were on hand to learn what modern war was turning into. And, of course the British were arrogant imperialists in those days -- ask the Irish and those living in India and China. (Remember the Opium Wars, fought to enforce the British right to sell opium to the Chinese people?)
When the British attack the USA from Canada and then mistakenly attack the Southern city of Biloxi from the sea, thinking it is the Northern outpost on Deer Island, the exhausted British soldiers break discipline after finding a warehouse of liquor, and end up raping the women of Biloxi. (Such breakdowns in British army discipline were rare, but not unknown.) This is exactly the kind of event that would have inflamed every Southern soldier with a desire for revenge, and when General Beauregard asks General Sherman for a truce so that he can move his troops to fight their common enemy, Sherman goes further by offering to join hs men with Beauregard's forces. This was a time when soldiers still thought in terms of honor, and Sherman was probably the most thoughtful and courageous general alive at the time. I was moved to tears by the scenes of the Bluecoats and Butternuts happily joining forces (they traded tobacco and coffee during truces, so this was also realistic) to attack the British forces. Add to this the genuine eloquence of people like Sherman and (especially) Lincoln, and the whole story was a moving experience. Turtledove's "Guns of the South" was extremely good (his later efforts have been more disappointing), but he never was able to capture the eloquence of Lincoln.
I bought this in paperback and ordered a Hardcover copy even *before* I finished reading it.
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am 1. Juli 1999
Stars and Stripes Forever is indeed a enjoyable read. However there two problems with this first novel that I can see that hopefully will be corrected in the next one. The first is that the darker side of America should be portrayed a little more evenly. America and the Americans are to honorable in this novel, and England too much the antaganist. I wish that the novel dove into the complexities of the English spirit more. We must remember that The English empire DID have its dark and dirty side. They lost the war of 1812 with the Americans and that did not sit well with them at all. There appeared to be a subconcious fear of this contry. If fact England felt uncomfortable with America until just before WW2 and it is very easy to see the Trent Incident begining a road to war. I am also suprised that Harry didn't add a French invasion of the U.S. from the west. I am sure that the French would definitely see us as a long term threat. Maybe in the future novel... The dialog is pleasant and appears to correspond well to the 1800's style of speech in the US. Again this book is a great start to the Stars and Stripes trilogy, worth reading several times to get the Feel and flow of a good Alternative historical yarn.
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am 1. November 1998
I wish this rating system had a lower ranking then one star because even this suggests a book is partially acceptable when this book would not even make a good doorstop.This is probably the worst book, let alone novel, that I have ever read. It is stilted formula writing geared for jingoistic morons who know or care nothing about history. Given the fact that it is supposed to be "alternate history" the only similarity to actual historical events are the names. All the Americans are demigods the British fools and you wonder how these same Brits could have won and maintained the largest empire ever seen. Harrison would have us believe that Queen Victoria was a frumpy old drunk and that the English people lived in downright slavery under their aristocratic lords. That John Mills was a traitor and after one bloody battle both the North and South are willing to settle their differences where in reality they were to suffer ten times as many casualties and fight for three more years until the South finally quit. The Royal navy attacks the Union without the foresight of having attached Confederate officers that can distinguish between the Stars and Stripes and Stars and Bars. Then Mr Harrison has the audacity to say : this "could be a true story" and yes pigs might fly. The only thing that I can consider worse than this book is that there might be two more. Come on you environment lovers stop these books and save some trees. Mr Harrison stick to space where you can delve into fantasy to your heart's content. Readers,if you want real alternate history read Harry Turtledove skip this turkey.
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am 14. November 1999
When I studied history in college my professors told us never to play the "what if" game. Of course,such speculating was too much fun to resist. Now it seems to be a healthy subgenre of science fiction, growing in popularity. My old professors must be appalled. Harrison's foray into the genre starts from one of the "what ifs" we also used to play with : what if the British had declared war over the Trent incident. Harrison's handling of that divergence is good, and he gets much else right,especially the way 19th century people thought and spoke, but too much of the book is implausible. By having North and South reunite so quickly and enthusiastically, I fear Harrison sells short the powerful animosity between the sections. Likewise, Harrison has Jefferson Davis persuaded to give up slavery after one easy lesson in economics. Racism and memories of Nat Turner would've kept slavery going despite John Stuart Mill's best arguments. The book's other flaws: no central fictional characters for us to follow through the action. The war itself is the main character, and this is of interest primarily to military buffs. In his afterword Harrison asserts he has written what would've certainly happened given his Trent divergence. The whole point of alternate history is nothing is written in stone.
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am 23. November 1999
This is the third AH book I have read about the Civil WAr era. I find that this book holds its own against the other two. My problems with this book didn't start until after I finished reading the book, and read the afterword. For Harrison to state, "Events, as depicted in this book, would have happened just as they are written here." is laughable. If not crazy of him. After reading that line I began pick holes in the book. It was hard for me to believe that the North and South could unite again so easily. As if all they needed was some spark to make them forget why they broke up in the first place. Especially when you consider that all those reasons are still their when they reunite. I also found that the rapid growth and adoption of US technology was a little too unbelievable. Harrison asks you to close your eyes to believe his story, but then he goes and says it his all true. It was too much for me. I also found it hard to picture a sequal. To me after was wrapped up to neatly to suggest a sequal. The only thing we as readers can think and argue about in the long, long time in betweens books is this vague British response. Their is no cliffhanger at the end of this book to make you go out and get the next one.
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am 30. November 1999
I admit it, I had fun with Harry Harrison's "Stars and Stripes Forever." Despite a couple of minor historical errors, Mr. Harrison has written a historical novel that feels historical. The characters and their voices belong to the ninteenth century, not the twentieth. This will irritate the sort of reader who thinks Lincoln sounded like a TV news anchor, but it is a nice change from Victorian infantrymen who seem to have fallen out of a James Jones novel. "Stars and Stripes Forever" is not "The Stainless Steel Rat Saves the Union", but it's worth a look if you understand that the Civil War happened in the 1860's, not the 1960's. It is also a nice counterpoint to Harry Turtledove's unquestioning worship of the Confederacy. Thanks Mr. Harrison.
By the way, the historical errors are on pages 45 & 284 where the New York draft riots happen more than a year before conscription went into effect in March 1863; and on page 69, when "Stanton" attends a cabinet meeting on December 25, 1861, three weeks before he became Secretary of War on January 15, 1862. There is also some geography trouble on page 85 when Tenessee and Kentucky switch places.
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am 27. Juni 1999
Stars and Stripes Forever delivers poorly the interesting concept of Britian invades North America during the War for Southern Independence.I'm no true expert on the war, but there were several errors, especially relating to Jefferson Davis. Davis was not a soldier thrust into politics, but rather an experienced politician in the US Congress and Mississippi legislature. He was not expecting to be appointed president of the Confederacy, but rather a command. Also, Davis favored an eventual emanicipation of slaves.The characters in this book were all rather dull, and uninspired. Lee was not the commander in chief of the Confederate Army.The British all seem violent and evil, not one speaks against the American Expedition.And, I don't think the Confederacy would be willing to fold so quickly, unless Lincoln made many concessions, something more than appointing Judah Benjamin as Secretary of the Southern States. Which reminds me, should the Confederate president become disabled, the vice president assumes the Presidency, not an appointee.The biggest thing that stuck me was all the misspellings, and especially, the sentence fragments on all fronts.Turtledove is the one you should read.
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I agree with Ken from Louisville; this book starts off with an interesting and tinglingly plausible premise (which he proceeds to spindle and mutilate in his treatment of it), and basically goes downhill from there. A good half of the work is essentially wasted in an overly-long buildup to the "turning point." Therafter, the plot is at best thin. Harrison also threw in a few errata (the Spencer repeating rifle does NOT, as stated, hold 20 rounds, and a 400-pounder Parrot naval gun never existed)and at times either exaggerates or minimizes the importance of various factors. Some events are so outlandishly unlikely as to spoil the genius behind them. The conclusion was extremely rocky, as if he was desperate to bring the book to a conclusion while simultaneously leaving it open for a sequel. I was honestly disappointed in this book, because I truly enjoyed many of this author's other works. All in all, I'd say read it if you have the time, but don't get your hopes up.
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am 11. Februar 1999
I have read and enjoyed most Harry Harrison books, but this one came to me so full of grammatical errors and horrid misspellings that I must conclude that the day of the proofreader is done. There is too much philosophizing and a rather overdone glorification of William Tecumseh Sherman, as well as more than enough of Grant's drinking problem. How could Sherman have commanded the respect of Lee (who was not at the time of the story, however historically distorted, "Commander in Chief of the Confederate Army")? Lee was Commander of the Army of Northern Virginia in 1861, 62, 63. It is easy to believe that we beat the British in less than a year after the "Battle of Biloxi," but distortions of history are little use unless preceded by true history. Irishness must be catching!
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