Thursday, August 2, 2007

Guns of the South

Guns of the South by Harry Turtledove is not my usual reading material but I decided to give it a try based on an author recommendation. I’m really glad I did, the book is thought provoking, entertaining, and brings historical figures to life giving them a personality that is steeped in historical accuracy but has enough of a novelist’s flair to be true characters. Like I’ve mentioned in a previous post, this book is set in the Civil War, starts in 1864 in fact. The moment the book starts you’re introduced to General Robert E. Lee, a man I read about many many times as a child (I think I was the only one in my middle school to check out his biography more than once). When General Lee is introduced to Andries Rhoodie, history as we know it changes completely. What happens throughout the book is based solely on the question, “What if the South had better weapons?” More specifically, “What if the South had AK-47s?” It’s a fascinating read and Turtledove does an excellent job showing the big picture through Lee and his journey while also showing the common man’s point of view through Nate Caudell, a school teacher from Nashville, NC.

My biggest complaint with this book is still the vocabulary. In the beginning of the book the use of the N-word (I know, still a rather immature way to describe it) pulled me out of the story every time it was used. By the end of the book I didn’t blink when I saw it. It fit the story and that bothered me. The fact that it didn’t faze me by the end, but when I saw it in the book I’m currently reading (The Audacity of Hope by Barack Obama) it jarred me once more. The use of the word is unacceptable to me in modern speech, but I realize that Mr. Turtledove wasn’t making a commentary on today’s speech by using it, he was highlighting the setting of his story. It fit that story, it fit the example Senator Obama used, it doesn’t fit day-to-day speech now and my discomfort with the word is intact. Oddly that was an important realization for me.

Despite that tangent, I can honestly say I enjoyed Guns of the South. I’ve already recommended it to one person and I know I’ll be recommending it to other fans of history and the fantastic. I’m looking forward to getting my hands on another Harry Turtledove novel, as I’d been told, the man does amazing things with Alternate History novels.

1 comment:

Samantha Stephens said...


Muffin & I are getting the SRP certificates ready to send out, but I need an email address for you (we're sending them via attachment)! Let me know which address I can use for you!