In 1861 the American Civil War was in its first lethal year. Britain favoured the Confederacy - and the United Kingdom's hostility to the North increased to a flashpoint when a Union warship stopped a British vessel at sea. At that moment, there was a very real risk of war between Britain and the Union.
Would Britain have invaded the United States? And if she had - what would have happened? This brilliantly envisaged alternative history shows on a truly epic scale the terrible consequences of such an action. For by the middle of the last century, warfare was already industrialised. Steam-powered ironclad ships at sea and trench warfare, powerful cannon and rapid firing guns on land had revolutionised the business of mass slaughter. Men died in battle on a scale never before seen.
Admirers of Harrison's West of Eden trilogy or his magisterial Dark Ages collaboration with John Holm won't be pleased by this disappointing novel of an alternate Civil War. Neither will buffs of that conflict or military historians accustomed to work at the level occupied by Harry Turtledove. Harrison's premise is that an actual historical event (the seizure of two Confederate diplomats from the British steamer Trent) leads to open war between Britain and the North. The British then attack Confederate territory by mistake, whereupon North and South join forces to give the British a royal shellacking, eventually driving them from the continent (the French Canadians form an independent republic). Harrison has thrown in some original touches, such as leading roles for John Stuart Mill and William Tecumseh Sherman. Many of the other historical characters are well handled and the burgeoning military technology of the area is explored in some detail. But the British are so consistently depicted as gross bunglers and their leaders (including a Queen Victoria straight out of Kitty Kelley) as Anglophobic stereotypes that all of Harrison's homework ends up supporting what is hardly above the level of an idiot plot. This appears to be the first of a series. Illustrations. Author tour.