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    Review of THE THE GRAPPLE by Harry Turtledove (see his website)


    Del Rey, July 2006

    The South's great offensive was smashed and its armies are in full retreat--out of Ohio, down to Kentucky, Tennesee, and finally Atlanta as the North attempts to do what the South succeeded in doing to it--splitting the country in two. The Confederate States could hardly survive the loss of the huge railroad hub in Atlanta, but increasingly, his generals are telling Confederate President Jake Featherstone that holding is impossible. The North's control of the air is too dominating, and their new tanks--tanks they should have had a generation earlier--dominate the Confederate machines.

    Featherstone will not accept anything less than victory--victory over the North, but especially victory over the Blacks whom he blames for the Confederate loss during the First World War. His death camps run at full speed with his 'population reduction' program, even as Confederate factories go empty for want of workers and as the remaining southern blacks join resistance movements, fighting back against both local whites and the Mexican troops Featherstone brings in to free his own white troops for front line duty.

    Author Harry Turtledove (see more reviews of novels by Turtledove) continues his massive alternate history series based on the South's winning the Civil War with THE GRAPPLE. The South's situation parallels that of World War II's Germany (in our universe) after its smashing defeat in Stalingrad. Unlike WW-II Germany, however, the Confederacy is definitely on the track to developing an atom bomb--and its allies, England and France, might help out as well.

    Turtledove tells his story from the points of view of a number of characters--from Presidents and Congressmen, Generals and Concentration Camp Comanders, private soldiers, camp guards, truck drivers, and guerilla fighters. In THE GRAPPLE, he successfully integrates these multiple limited viewpoints to show the scope and horror of war, the moral bankruptcy of hatred and racial injustice, yet also manage to convey the strategic balance. Fans of the series will enjoy seeing familiar characters return--and in come cases, come to the end of their stories, while new characters are introduced.

    From a plot perspective, THE GRAPPLE lacks real turning points. Instead, the US pushes ever-deeper into Confederate territory while General Patton squanders his troops on futile counteroffenses in the face of overwhelming US air power. I had hoped that the Baja adventure might be the setting for a Desert Fox sort of alternate to the US advance, but this didn't prove out. Still, THE GRAPPLE makes for fascinating reading and will certainly help solidify Turtledove's place as the reigning king of modern alternate history SF.

    Three Stars

    Reviewed 11/08/05

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