“[Harry Turtledove] handles his huge cast with admirable skill. The insights into racial politics elevate this novel to a status above mere entertainment, although it provides that aplenty.”—Publishers Weekly
It’s 1941, and an alliance of peace holds in check the most powerful nations of the world—but it is an uneasy peace. Japan dominates the Pacific, the Russian tsar rules Alaska, and England, under Winston Churchill, chafes for a return to its former glory.
Behind this façade of world order, America is a bomb waiting to explode. Jake Featherston, the megalomaniacal leader of the Confederate States of America, is just the man to light the fuse. Opposite him is Al Smith, a Socialist U.S. president in the Philadelphia White House. Smith is a living symbol of hope for a nation that has been through the hell of war and depression.
Featherston and his Freedom Party are determined to conquer their Northern neighbor at any cost. After crushing a Negro rebellion in his own nation, Featherston sends Confederate army planes to attack Philadelphia. In the aftermath of the CSA blitzkrieg, the war machine spins a vortex of destruction, betrayal, and fury that no one—not even Jake Featherston himself—can control.
“Turtledove plays heady games with actual history, scattering object lessons and bitter ironies along the way. [Return Engagement features] strong, complex characters against a sweeping alt-historical background.”—Kirkus Reviews
“Another absorbing installment of [Turtledove’s] character-centered alternate-history saga.”—Booklist
In this well-thought-out alternate history, the first in a new trilogy, Turtledove (American Empire) combines elements of the Civil War and WWII with disturbing results. Confederate President Jake Featherstone has launched an undeclared war of revenge on the U.S.A., with Rebel "barrels" (tanks) cutting the nation in half. U.S. President Al Smith doesn't sue for peace as expected, causing unreconstructed Canadians to sabotage the now-vital Northern rail system holding the nation together. Mormon separatists have once more revolted against the federal government, and Louis Armstrong, who has defected to the North, brings with him chilling evidence of the Confederate "population reductions" (genocide) of African-Americans. Turtledove's depiction of how easily the C.S.A. could carry out genocide and do so with less cost to the conscience than the Germans experienced in the real Holocaust coupled with the "so what?" reaction of Northerners when this is publicized makes a disturbing commentary on the state of race relations in both parts of our country. While some of the character descriptions are repetitious, the author handles his huge cast with admirable skill. The insights into racial politics elevate this novel to a status above mere entertainment, although it provides that aplenty.