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The Guns of the South

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January 1864 –General Robert E. Lee faces defeat. The Army of Northern Virginia is ragged and ill-equpped. Gettysburg has broken the back of the Confederacy and decimated its manpower.Then, Andries Rhoodie, a strange man with an unplaceable accent, approaches Lee with an extraordinary offer. Rhoodie demonstrates an amazing rifle: Its rate of fire is incredible, its lethal January 1864 –General Robert E. Lee faces defeat. The Army of Northern Virginia is ragged and ill-equpped. Gettysburg has broken the back of the Confederacy and decimated its manpower.Then, Andries Rhoodie, a strange man with an unplaceable accent, approaches Lee with an extraordinary offer. Rhoodie demonstrates an amazing rifle: Its rate of fire is incredible, its lethal efficiency breathtaking--and Rhoodie guarantees unlimited quantitites to the Confederates.The name of the weapon is the AK-47...."It is absolutely unique--without question the most fascinating Civil War novel I have ever read." –Professor James M. McPherson – Pultizer Prize winning Battle Cry of Freedom

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January 1864 –General Robert E. Lee faces defeat. The Army of Northern Virginia is ragged and ill-equpped. Gettysburg has broken the back of the Confederacy and decimated its manpower.Then, Andries Rhoodie, a strange man with an unplaceable accent, approaches Lee with an extraordinary offer. Rhoodie demonstrates an amazing rifle: Its rate of fire is incredible, its lethal January 1864 –General Robert E. Lee faces defeat. The Army of Northern Virginia is ragged and ill-equpped. Gettysburg has broken the back of the Confederacy and decimated its manpower.Then, Andries Rhoodie, a strange man with an unplaceable accent, approaches Lee with an extraordinary offer. Rhoodie demonstrates an amazing rifle: Its rate of fire is incredible, its lethal efficiency breathtaking--and Rhoodie guarantees unlimited quantitites to the Confederates.The name of the weapon is the AK-47...."It is absolutely unique--without question the most fascinating Civil War novel I have ever read." –Professor James M. McPherson – Pultizer Prize winning Battle Cry of Freedom

30 review for The Guns of the South

  1. 4 out of 5

    Jeff

    The best evil-racists-from-the-future-supply-AK47s-to-the-South-so-they-can-win-the-Civil-War novel I have read.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Werner

    Despite my fondness for alternate history, I've never gotten around to reading much of it, and Harry Turtledove's work in the field was virgin territory to me until I read this book. (I know, that's pretty shocking, since his name is practically synonymous with the sub-genre in U.S. book circles!) But I've recognized this novel as a must-read for years, and finally decided (long story!) to read it now rather than later. I'm very glad I did; it's early in the year, but this might well be my favor Despite my fondness for alternate history, I've never gotten around to reading much of it, and Harry Turtledove's work in the field was virgin territory to me until I read this book. (I know, that's pretty shocking, since his name is practically synonymous with the sub-genre in U.S. book circles!) But I've recognized this novel as a must-read for years, and finally decided (long story!) to read it now rather than later. I'm very glad I did; it's early in the year, but this might well be my favorite read of 2017. As is often the case, the Goodreads description of this book is copied from the back cover; and it explains the premise very well. Here, the alteration in history isn't caused by a change of events or decision within the historical setting, but by the intervention of time travelers from outside of it: a fanatical bunch of South African white supremacists from 2014 (this book was written in 1992), who come bearing a supply of AK-47s for the Confederate armies, which they hope will turn the tide of the war. (Their world has developed time travel technology, which they've stolen to use for their purposes, but it only works in 150 year jumps --hence, from January 2014, they couldn't go any further back in time than January 1864.) Since the cover of this edition proclaims across the top in capital letters, "THE MASTER OF ALTERNATE HISTORY DEPICTS THE ULTIMATE REVERSAL: THE SOUTH WINS THE CIVIL WAR," I'm hardly guilty of writing a spoiler in quoting it. But the meat of the novel lies in the scenario of how the South wins --and more importantly, what happens after that, since this tale spans the years 1864-68. The Civil War was the bloodiest war, in terms of American deaths, in our history; despite the facade of postwar sectional reconciliation, it left a legacy of grievance and hatred on both sides that's been the province of demagogues to exploit for political advantage ever since. And like the war itself, this legacy is inextricably bound up with the unqualifiedly pernicious institution of slavery, which many Southerners (though not all) went to war with the goal of protecting, and which some Northerners --though not nearly as many as modern Northern pundits would like us to believe--went to war in the hope of destroying. (So inevitably, it's a legacy that tends to be seen differently, and with a lot less detachment, by black Americans than by white ones --even by whites who abhor slavery, as practically all living whites in America do today.) This isn't a moral climate that lends itself to appreciation of nuance and a desire to understand the perspectives of others, historical or contemporary; rather, it's a climate that fosters stereotyping and demonization of the hated Other, whether they actually have or had demonic beliefs or not. All of this makes a premise like Turtledove's an absolute minefield for an alternate history novelist to tread. Yet Turtledove treads it without flinching, and does so with precisely the appreciation of nuance and desire to truly understand where his characters were coming from historically that tends to be the first casualty of wars (whether they're the shooting kind that we had in the 1860s or the screaming kind that we have now). He does this while putting the issue of race/slavery squarely at the heart of his novel, and as the central question that has to engage his characters' moral growth and decisions. And his characters are almost entirely Southerners, and mostly white Southerners. His perspective is the same basic one that all decent and educated people have today: that race and skin color have nothing to do with individual intelligence and character, and that no human being has the right to own another (though he shows that perspective naturally by the unfolding of his story, rather than by long sermons and didactic passages). Obviously, though, not every character he's dealing with has that perspective. His two viewpoint characters, General Lee and Sergeant Nate Caudill of the 47th North Carolina, start with somewhat more enlightened views of blacks than some Southerners (Lee's being a bit more advanced than Caudill's), and have essentially decent instincts, but even they are people of their time with lessons to learn. Virtually all of his white characters have some racial prejudices --some, like Andries Rhoodie and his cohorts, based on hate, but most simply based on the ignorance that comes when whites and blacks never really get to know each other. No punches are pulled here in depicting the ugliness of the whole slavery culture that these people take for granted (the description of a slave auction is nauseating), and the frequent use of racist terminology grates like a vegetable grater over flesh. (The book got its stars despite those characteristics, not because of them.) But the realism is necessary to what the author is trying to do. Turtledove's day job is an academic historian (he has a PhD. in the subject) and author of serious nonfiction history books written under his pen name of H. N. Turtletaub. He bases this novel on massive research; almost all of the characters who populate the book, as he explains in the historical notes, were real people whose depictions stick as close to known facts as possible, and the locations (except for the town of Rivington) are mostly real places and described accurately as they were in the 1860s. The behavior of Lee, Abraham Lincoln, Jefferson Davis, Nathan Bedford Forrest, Gen. Grant and the other political figures is entirely consistent with their known personalities and attitudes, and the developments of his alternate history are entirely plausible given the changes to the timeline that he posits. This is a long book (556 pages of text), but it's a gripping page turner all the way, where the length is a plus that just serves to build a fascinating world more fascinatingly, and give you more time with believable, flawed, but mostly likeable people you come to really care about. Apart from the racial epithets, there's some profanity and scatology (many of these characters are soldiers, and they talk like many of their real-life counterparts actually did), but no obscenity except on one occasion from a South African; and while there's some unmarried sex, none of it is explicit. The plotting is spot-on perfect, IMO. "You Southerners may have made the Confederacy into a nation, General Lee, but what sort of nation shall it be?" --Lord Richard Lyons, British minister to the U.S.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Lyn

    The best alternate history novel? Hell, I don’t know, I haven’t read that many, but this one was pretty damn good. SPOILER ALERT! In this book, the South wins the Civil War! OK, so not that much of a spoiler, I think that’s on the cover. But HOW that happens is how Turtledove makes this interesting. A group of racist South Africans goes back in time and equips General Lee’s army with AK-47s. The added firepower was all the crafty old tactician needed to turn the tide on Grant and Lincoln. So what ha The best alternate history novel? Hell, I don’t know, I haven’t read that many, but this one was pretty damn good. SPOILER ALERT! In this book, the South wins the Civil War! OK, so not that much of a spoiler, I think that’s on the cover. But HOW that happens is how Turtledove makes this interesting. A group of racist South Africans goes back in time and equips General Lee’s army with AK-47s. The added firepower was all the crafty old tactician needed to turn the tide on Grant and Lincoln. So what happens when the CSA lasts beyond 1865? Lots! And Turtledove follows Lee, an educated North Carolina First Sergeant returning to his civilian career as a school teacher and four score and seven other interesting characters both historic and imagined who populate the CSA that might have been. The most obvious theme explored in this sideways history is racism. For those easily offended by a certain racial slur, this may not be the book for you. Turtledove strives for and achieves narrative historic accuracy but in doing so drops more N words than The Dude dropped F bombs in The Big Lebowski. Turtledove examines the peculiar institution in terms of those most affected, those who have grown to accept that way of life, those who insist on maintaining the status quo and the Apartheid terrorists who started the whole mess. This was a good book and I enjoyed reading it, but WAY WAY too long. Damn! Tell your story and then stop typing, this could have been so much better a hundred pages less. Still, very good and I’ll revisit Turtledove and this sub-genre again.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Nate

    I stumbled across this book while prowling around this very site and was instantly captivated by the cover; I mean, it's a picture of famous Confederate General Robert E. Lee holding one of the most recognizable firearms of our time--the AK-47. To be honest, it's not even well-done; he's gripping it all weird and it just kind of looks like shit. Throw in a good review from one of my friends on the site and it was an easy three or four dollars to spend, even though I swear the young lady that ran I stumbled across this book while prowling around this very site and was instantly captivated by the cover; I mean, it's a picture of famous Confederate General Robert E. Lee holding one of the most recognizable firearms of our time--the AK-47. To be honest, it's not even well-done; he's gripping it all weird and it just kind of looks like shit. Throw in a good review from one of my friends on the site and it was an easy three or four dollars to spend, even though I swear the young lady that rang me up looked at the cover, then back at me with a kind of disdainful amusement...I'm sorry it wasn't fucking Naked Lunch or Gravity's Rainbow or whatever. Those are probably bad examples, I don't even know what cool people read these days. So obviously I'm coming into this experience with a fair amount of bias against its literary quality based solely on the cover and the premise. You might be wondering why I would even want to read this having said all that, and the answer to that is because I occasionally enjoy trash. Well, I can safely say that this book is not trash and that the author managed to take such a ridiculous premise and build a convincing speculation on it. The guy is not some weird hack that got popular by a bizarre stroke of fate, he got a Ph.D. in Byzantine history from UCLA and obviously knows the American Civil War and all the people involved back to front. The book also mercifully doesn't consist of scene after scene of Confederates mowing down Union troops like some low-budget action movie, as the war ends fairly early in the novel. The real idea or theme this book deals with is the question of what the CSA would have grown into had it won the war, and Turtledove has some very interesting and even pleasantly surprising speculations on that. As usual I try to avoid spoilers as much as possible in writing reviews of books but the back cover tells quite a bit; a militant racist South African organization uses a time machine to travel to 1864 and hook the Confederates up with a bunch of AK-47s, which is a hilarious difference from the rifled muskets most soldiers were using. The novel follows two protagonists; the aforementioned Robert E. Lee and Nate Caudell, a teacher and First Sergeant in the Army of Northern Virginia. Despite them both being Confederate scum, I had to like them; Lee is smart, compassionate, and committed to his duties, and Caudell is a rational, humble and thoughtful salt-of-the-earth type guy. Despite my best efforts I enjoyed the dumb love story between Caudell and Mollie Bean, a great Hooker With a Heart of Gold™-type character. The two characters provide a nice and easy way to watch both Lee's decision-making and its effects on the little people. Some flaws did present themselves as I made my way throughout the novel. Lee is great but he is also a bit of a Gary Stu. (view spoiler)[I was also hoping the entire time Forrest would get murdered by someone. The man was inarguably a horrible, murderous racist and the way Turtledove handled him was so bizarre...it was like the first half of the novel he's predictably an asshole and villain character and then suddenly he's this awesome hero General and leads everyone to victory? Terrible. Just terrible. (hide spoiler)] That said, I can imagine that bitching about that kind of thing is pretty common with alternate history stuff--everyone has their own impression of the people and events and that's going to clash. The fact that it stimulates thought and discussion on the subject is probably the important thing. The best way I can summarize this book is that it combines an outlandish concept with well-researched and detailed speculation and storytelling. Reading the author's note at the end really drove home what an effort Turtledove made to create a realistic alternate world; the different factors and conditions he used to create the presidential elections of both countries was pretty complex and fascinating. The first fifty pages also serve as a kind of rudimentary user's guide to the AK-47. Without giving away too much, it also has a refreshing (for me; some might say naive) faith in humanity's inherent goodness and progression towards a more compassionate state of being. If any of this sounds remotely entertaining and worth looking into, you might want to give this a try.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Mike (the Paladin)

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. I first reviewed this some years ago. This is an update 8/17/15 I read this years ago and I must say i liked it. Unfortunately it was the last in this seemingly endless series of books I did like. ***Actually this book doesn't have anything to do with the aforementioned endless series on the Civil War. It simply treads the same "subject ground". This I liked...those I burned out on pretty much right away. This one explores the anachronistic arrival of some South African white supremacists with a I first reviewed this some years ago. This is an update 8/17/15 I read this years ago and I must say i liked it. Unfortunately it was the last in this seemingly endless series of books I did like. ***Actually this book doesn't have anything to do with the aforementioned endless series on the Civil War. It simply treads the same "subject ground". This I liked...those I burned out on pretty much right away. This one explores the anachronistic arrival of some South African white supremacists with a large supply of AK-47s to the south during the Civil War, with the (somewhat predictable) changes for the outcome of said war, and the CSA is established as a separate country. Pet Peeve: (view spoiler)[One of my big arguments with this book is that after the war the 2 border states KY. and MO. hold a "popular referendum" to see if they'll join the Confederacy or the Union. He writes that KY goes with the CSA and MO goes with the USA. Looking at history and the MO KS conflict along with the fact that the Mountain and Cumberland Plateau areas (in TN, NC and KY) went largely Union I think it would have gone the other way. (hide spoiler)] As I said this is a good and interesting read but there is then a series of Civil War books by the author which turns into a sort of "soap-opera" (as has happened with some other Turtledove books). So I read this, then later on started a couple of the later books ...... and put them down. But, as I said this one is worth the read.

  6. 4 out of 5

    John

    Am I a bad history grad student for reading this? Probably... I shouldn't have bothered with this. It was really poorly written in parts, especially any time dialogue had to provide some kind of exposition, and plus it made me feel a little dirty to have to root for the Confederates, as they are the heroes of the book. I knew the basic plot: a group of 21st Century racist South Africans travel back in time and give AK-47s to the Confederates so they will win the Civil War. What I didn't realize w Am I a bad history grad student for reading this? Probably... I shouldn't have bothered with this. It was really poorly written in parts, especially any time dialogue had to provide some kind of exposition, and plus it made me feel a little dirty to have to root for the Confederates, as they are the heroes of the book. I knew the basic plot: a group of 21st Century racist South Africans travel back in time and give AK-47s to the Confederates so they will win the Civil War. What I didn't realize was that the South Africans don't just leave, they hang around to be a major plot point throughout the book. Why do they hang around? So that the author can constantly compare them with the Confederates and imply that the Confederates weren't all that racist. Turtledove fills the book with South African characters mistreating slaves, and Confederates like Robert E. Lee coming to the slaves' defense. He even goes so far as to have the South African characters buy slaves and horribly abuse them, so he can have Confederates 'rescue' them. The plot of the book turns on R.E. Lee winning the war and almost immediately becoming an open and vocal abolitionist, which is completely nonsensical. And as I said before, the exposition is horribly clunky, with people saying things like "As I'm sure you know, General Lee, because you are a student of our politics, our Confederate constitution, which was passed in 1861, provides for a six year presidential term." Groan. I will say this for Turtledove: he is creative in his ideas about how history would have progressed in the aftermath of a Confederate victory. He goes into great detail about the subsequent presidential elections in the North and the South, about what would happen to a Lincoln who lived, about relations between the U.S. and Britain if Britain recognized the Confederates, about what would happen to the border states, etc. All of that is interesting. But when you combine the awkward writing with this picture of the rebels as a group of people hardly racist and almost ready to give up slavery on their own...I can't really recommend this book.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Justin

    The Premise: White nationalist Afrikaaners travel back in time and equip Robert E. Lee's Army of Northern Virginia with fully automatic AK-47 rifles on the eve of the Battle for the Wilderness in 1864. Hijinks ensue. That's it, really. Guns of the South is simply that premise followed to one possible conclusion. Though the premise is fantastical, it is slyly subversive: in following the most popular general "what if" of alternate history (South Wins the Civil War), Turtledove is able to prey on t The Premise: White nationalist Afrikaaners travel back in time and equip Robert E. Lee's Army of Northern Virginia with fully automatic AK-47 rifles on the eve of the Battle for the Wilderness in 1864. Hijinks ensue. That's it, really. Guns of the South is simply that premise followed to one possible conclusion. Though the premise is fantastical, it is slyly subversive: in following the most popular general "what if" of alternate history (South Wins the Civil War), Turtledove is able to prey on the vanity and insecurity of the modern day "Lost Cause" sympathizer by juxtaposing those ostensibly racist Southerners with those even more racist late 20th Century South Africans. We see the triumphant Confederates chastened and cognizant of the error of their ways (slavery), so much so that they join up with their Union foes to vanquish the schemes of the two-dimensionally evil Afrikaaners. What's puzzling is that, for someone who is so notoriously conspicuous with his various reminders to the reader that he's Done His Research, Harry Turtledove refuses to recognize the historic reality that a) caused the Civil War, and b) made many of his historical characters (particularly the Southerners) so unsympathetic. Even Nathan Bedford Forrest, the butcher of Fort Pillow and founder of the Ku Klux Klan, is rehabilitated under the magic of Turtledove's prose. Forrest is Not Bad After All, once Saint Robert E. Lee's beatific influence is felt. One might say "Hey, it's fiction, what's the big deal?" The big deal is that the author is by design using the allure of a well known historical era, with its well known cast of historical characters, to get people to read his book. Playing around with "what if"s can be fun and useful in fiction (cf. Ward Moore's Bring the Jubilee). But some counterfactuals are simply nonsensical, illogical, and offer prime examples of begging the question. "What If Hitler Didn't Invade the Soviet Union?" is a good example: anyone with a grasp of the primary sources understands that the only way for that to have been avoided was for Hitler (and by extension, the Nazis) to have never come into power in Germany in the first place, and so posing the question makes no sense. "What if the Civil War Wasn't About Slavery/Race/etc?" is the proposition underlying the more superficial counterfactual in Guns of the South involving South Africans and AK-47s. That underlying proposition is necessary, because without it, there's no way to make many of Turtledove's protagonists as likable and sympathetic as he demands. To pose that question is silly, and renders moot the era to which Turtledove would have us journey.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Thomas

    This is a great book. The cover has Robert E. Lee with an Ak-47 so you know it isn't your standard book. Even though a Confederate victory via time travel is far fetched, it isn't the main part of the book. It has much more to do with the Confederate States as a nation and how it comes to terms with it's own internal problems as well as facing a racism borne out of hatred (by the time travelers), as opposed to their racism based out of ignorance. The time travelers from a decade ahead of our own This is a great book. The cover has Robert E. Lee with an Ak-47 so you know it isn't your standard book. Even though a Confederate victory via time travel is far fetched, it isn't the main part of the book. It has much more to do with the Confederate States as a nation and how it comes to terms with it's own internal problems as well as facing a racism borne out of hatred (by the time travelers), as opposed to their racism based out of ignorance. The time travelers from a decade ahead of our own were white supremacists from South Africa and sought to create a puppet state, only Robert E. Lee (while not as enlightened as we may be) was a forward thinking man on race and a moderate abolitionist in his own right, and for diplomatic purposes, the CSA would need to curtail slavery for the sake of alliances with Europe which had abolished slavery a generation or two earlier. In addition to the main plot about the Confederates vs a futuristic coup are referendums on whether Missouri and Kentucky wish to be in the Union or the Confederacy (Missouri stays in the US while Kentucky joins the CSA) as well as a friendship between Lincoln and Lee (two men who's early deaths greatly damaged the Southern states), Lee's plans to phase out slavery, and a US invasion of Canada to offset the loss of their Southern states. This book may not be a realistic alternate history, but the main point of it is about how the South evolves after being free and readjusting their own views after seeing a much more malignant side of their perspective.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Robert Beveridge

    Harry Turtledove, Guns of the South (Del Rey, 1992) Time to make shish kebab out of another sacred cow. Guns of the South is considered THE alternate history novel by many, the one alternate history novel that should be required reading in history classes and on just about every historian's list of must-read Civil War books. And to be fair, it's almost that good. Really. As with most fiction of the speculative type, especially alternate-history speculative fiction, the plot can be summed up by ask Harry Turtledove, Guns of the South (Del Rey, 1992) Time to make shish kebab out of another sacred cow. Guns of the South is considered THE alternate history novel by many, the one alternate history novel that should be required reading in history classes and on just about every historian's list of must-read Civil War books. And to be fair, it's almost that good. Really. As with most fiction of the speculative type, especially alternate-history speculative fiction, the plot can be summed up by asking one simple question. In that case, "what if the South won the American Civil War?" The book is essentially divided into two halves; the first half takes place during the war, and the second half afterwards. And when Turtledove is writing battle scenes, he shines. The first half of the book flies by. It's a page-turner to end all page-turners. Unfortunately, when Robert E. Lee moves from military command to political life, the story bogs down. Badly. It does pick up again, a hundred or so pages later, but there are a few places in the book where the pace gets so glacial I started to think I'd accidentally picked up Frank Herbert's Children of Dune instead. Yes, it gets that slow. It all wraps up pretty nicely, but the journey to get from point A to point B can sure be hard sometimes. ** 1/2

  10. 5 out of 5

    Kevin Xu

    The ultimate alternative history book of all time by the ultimate alternative history author of all time. This is the one book to read if to read alternative history.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Sean

    Half masturbatory Robert E. Lee fanfic, half apologia for the South... Honestly, the concept is brilliant--white supremacists go back in time, help the South win the Civil War with AKs, and it just goes on from there. But man, I lost count of the number of times someone said the war was about keeping slaves, only to be shouted down by people saying that no, really it was about freedom and states' rights. For crying out loud. Aside from that (which isn't all that bad, it just stands out once you no Half masturbatory Robert E. Lee fanfic, half apologia for the South... Honestly, the concept is brilliant--white supremacists go back in time, help the South win the Civil War with AKs, and it just goes on from there. But man, I lost count of the number of times someone said the war was about keeping slaves, only to be shouted down by people saying that no, really it was about freedom and states' rights. For crying out loud. Aside from that (which isn't all that bad, it just stands out once you notice it--a la Mieville's crosshatching), the main problem I had with this novel was the second main character. Robert E. Lee is a pretty impressive historical figure, and you could definitely do worse in picking someone to fanfic. But the second lead, Nate Caudell, is a conduit to the story rather than an actor in it. He's there to let us see cool battle scenes from the trenches. This is great as far as it goes--the battle scenes are fun and nicely constructed--but Caudell is simply a dull character. He waits around for things to happen; he's not proactive. Even at the end when (SPOILER!) he marries his sweetheart, it's because she suggested it! On the whole, I'd recommend this more heartily if it were shorter. As it is... yeah, sure, what the hell. Go ahead and give it a try.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Joel

    Turtledove has a unique way of blending science fiction with history. The way he conveys accounts identify him as a master of history and research. In fact, if he were to publish text books in this manner (without the Sci-Fi obviously), the nation's history I.Q. would rise rather sharply. It's truly one of those "can't put it down" novels. The way he recreates past events and images with his "twists", shows a mind that thinks outside the box. "Enfield, Springfield, throw them in the cornfield". Turtledove has a unique way of blending science fiction with history. The way he conveys accounts identify him as a master of history and research. In fact, if he were to publish text books in this manner (without the Sci-Fi obviously), the nation's history I.Q. would rise rather sharply. It's truly one of those "can't put it down" novels. The way he recreates past events and images with his "twists", shows a mind that thinks outside the box. "Enfield, Springfield, throw them in the cornfield". Brilliant. A typical marching tune that a unit in that era would compose. His ability to hold the reader to suspense is 5 star. His character composition, also 5 star. There's really nothing to be said negatively about this book.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Jessica

    This was the first Harry Turtledove book I ever picked up. Well, "picked up" is misleading...I actually had the pleasure of meeting Mr. Turtledove for half a minute at a Comic Con in San Diego many moons ago. He was at a table in the back, and had books all around him (enough to draw me in, that's for sure!) He signed a copy to me and my (then) boyfriend, and I happily walked away. I wasn't able to pick it up for a few years - I had tried once, but couldn't get past the first chapter - but when This was the first Harry Turtledove book I ever picked up. Well, "picked up" is misleading...I actually had the pleasure of meeting Mr. Turtledove for half a minute at a Comic Con in San Diego many moons ago. He was at a table in the back, and had books all around him (enough to draw me in, that's for sure!) He signed a copy to me and my (then) boyfriend, and I happily walked away. I wasn't able to pick it up for a few years - I had tried once, but couldn't get past the first chapter - but when I did, it blew me away. In what I've come to understand is a common theme for Mr. Turtledove, he's taken a major historical event and put an alternate history to it. In this case, the question is, "what would have happened if the South had won, with a little help from the future?" It's a very interesting read. The story follows several different characters, from actual historical figures to those created to help the story, and it all flows from chapter to chapter. I had read at one point that Mr. Turtledove had taken some criticism for his portrayal of Lee, because he portrayed him as a gentleman who stuck to his convictions. True or not, the Lee that Turtledove painted in the novel was the type of person I'd want to know, and the same could be said for Nate and Molly.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Fred Shaw

    Ever wonder that if the Confederacy with superior weaponry, had won the Civil War and Robert E. Lee became President of the United States, what our world might look like? Read this book. A little history and a lot of imagination make this book an excellent read.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Ozymandias

    An intriguing novel that has time-traveling apartheid terrorists go back in time to supply the Confederate army with AK-47s and keep white supremacy alive into their day so that they're not isolated when their government comes under pressure in the early 21st century. With this story I have to wonder who the intended audience is. I doubt the Confederate pride people will be happy at the reminder of just how horrible slavery truly was (even if Southerners are the protagonists), whereas it was phys An intriguing novel that has time-traveling apartheid terrorists go back in time to supply the Confederate army with AK-47s and keep white supremacy alive into their day so that they're not isolated when their government comes under pressure in the early 21st century. With this story I have to wonder who the intended audience is. I doubt the Confederate pride people will be happy at the reminder of just how horrible slavery truly was (even if Southerners are the protagonists), whereas it was physically painful for me to read of admired figures failing utterly in the great dual purpose of preserving the Union and ending slavery. Defeated Abe is truly a painful sight. It's not overly fun to see the bad guys winning, even if some of the people on that side are decent human beings. The second half of the book breaks free from that and turns to the course of the new CSA figuring out how its going to rule itself. This section is rather less depressing as Lee is basically a really decent guy and in a position to do some good, while the Neo-Nazi Afrikaner scumbags are less able to dominate the proceedings. Seeing how people from the 1860s view some of the future is interesting to see just from a character standpoint. As you might tell, I found the first half uncomfortable reading and the second half rather more entertaining. In both sections though, the book is consumed with a lot of superfluous details (including a long sequence on just how to use and clean an AK-47) that leave you impatient for it to just get on with it. The sections revolving around the gradually changing opinions of a local teacher and related characters are especially prone to this sort of dead wood. The main strength of the book is in its characters and setting though. As ever, Turtledove is a master at reproducing historical figures and attitudes in a way that I've rarely seen matched. Even more impressive is his ability to do so without benefit of their historical actions to build a framework around. Lee is about as close to the figure as any attempt I've seen to capture him. Same goes for Grant, Forrest, Davis, etc. Lincoln seems a bit off, but then it's really hard to imagine how he would react to losing the war. It's so antithetical to think of him as an abject failure that I have a hard time envisioning it. Historical attitudes are on display too, for all their uncomfortable bigotry. Be prepared for a massive use of the word nigger and some really unpleasant and brutal scenes, none of which have negative consequences for the perpetrators. The book is fortunate in having the Afrikaner fanatics as villains since this gives us someone to hate who's even worse than the Southern slaveowners. But the fact that you end up siding with ever-victorious racist murdering Rebs (and I know the North wasn't much better, but still...) is disturbing in and of itself. So in the end, I still wonder who this book is aimed at?

  16. 4 out of 5

    David McClelland

    Perhaps the only one of Turtledoves novels that I would call truly excellent. Unlike many of his sagas, there's no bloated and exposition heavy storytelling here, just a tightly constructed alternate history with a neat science-fiction twist. Again, unlike many of his other books, characters are a strength here, bolstered, I think, by the fact that he choses just a few people to focus on, rather than the dozens of on-going characters he usually fills his works with. Robert E. Lee is an interesti Perhaps the only one of Turtledoves novels that I would call truly excellent. Unlike many of his sagas, there's no bloated and exposition heavy storytelling here, just a tightly constructed alternate history with a neat science-fiction twist. Again, unlike many of his other books, characters are a strength here, bolstered, I think, by the fact that he choses just a few people to focus on, rather than the dozens of on-going characters he usually fills his works with. Robert E. Lee is an interesting choice to act as the protagonist, and though he may be presented as a bit more liberal than he was historically, he still makes for a strong and compelling lead. The supporting cast is also well-constructed, and Turtledove's research into the Civil War was clearly quite detailed. And while the science-fiction elements are a bit flimsy, they certainly serve their purpose and make for an entertaining storyline. All in all, this is one of the best alt-histories I've read, and I just wish that the rest of Turtledove's work was this tightly focused.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Anthony Ryan

    A seminal work in alternative history dealing with that old chestnut: what if the South had won the American Civil War? Turtledove makes a convincing case to support the notion the only thing that might have swung the balance in the favour of the Confederacy would have been the introduction of something as radically game-changing as the AK-47. Whilst the amateur historian in me doesn't buy all of Turtledove's conclusions, primarily the notion that the Southern states would have quickly thrown of A seminal work in alternative history dealing with that old chestnut: what if the South had won the American Civil War? Turtledove makes a convincing case to support the notion the only thing that might have swung the balance in the favour of the Confederacy would have been the introduction of something as radically game-changing as the AK-47. Whilst the amateur historian in me doesn't buy all of Turtledove's conclusions, primarily the notion that the Southern states would have quickly thrown off slavery in the aftermath of victory over the north, this remains a fascinating entry in the never-ending game of 'what if'.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Alan Gilfoy

    Harry Turtledove, The Guns Of The South Earns his alternate history reputation I've been interested in the alternate history genre, and finally picked up some Turtledove. (The local library had a copy, and this is a standalone book, as opposed to starting one of his big series in the middle) The story offers an interesting point of divergence and series of events following from it. The analogues to and aspects from real history are meticulously well-detailed. I sensed that throughout the book, and Harry Turtledove, The Guns Of The South Earns his alternate history reputation I've been interested in the alternate history genre, and finally picked up some Turtledove. (The local library had a copy, and this is a standalone book, as opposed to starting one of his big series in the middle) The story offers an interesting point of divergence and series of events following from it. The analogues to and aspects from real history are meticulously well-detailed. I sensed that throughout the book, and was impressed with the thorough research, but was still surprised by the endnote which said that the characters of the 44th North Carolina were based on actual military records. The book also does a great job illustrating issues related to the American Civil War. Since a Southern victory was so unlikely in real life, perhaps the science-fiction help was necessary to illuminate those issues. There seem to be too many examples of that to go into here. I liked the style of two POV characters where one was an average soldier, and one a general and later politician, since overall this offered a wider perspective on the story. An educated man and noncommissioned officer like Nate kept the commoner viewpoint from being too narrow. The parts about his teaching and his relationship with Mollie were great as something universal, or a touch of normalcy amongst the chaos It makes sense that Lee would end up involved in politics in a world where the South won, like how Grant ended up as US President in real life. Davis serving in Lee's Cabinet reminded me of how John Quincy Adams ran for the US House Of Representatives after his presidency. I realized early on the the AWB were neo-Nazis or somesuch and the letters really stood for something besides 'America Will Break'. However, I was still surprised that they were South African racists, their gold being in Kruggerand form being the first obvious clue. It was striking how they were even more racist than the Confederates. Overall, Turtledove handles the in-character reveal/explanation/investigation of their nature very well, so the ending involving the AWB explaining their technology/history/etc seems particularly fitting. It seemed convenient that the 44th North Carolina was the group called back for the combat at the end of the book, but that seemed excusable as a way to use characters we were already familiar with. Turtledove uses the N-word a lot, but it seems to fit the setting, as opposed to using it gratuitously. It's interesting how many of the characters who are relatively reasonable on racial issues still use that word sometimes. Frankly, I was amused when Turtledove made a pun with the unrelated word meaning 'stingy'. I read through it again pretty much right after finishing it; I rarely do that even with books I like.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Bart Breen

    Entertaining and Thought Provoking Turtledove's Guns of the South, provides a rollicking good read as well as a great deal of insight into some of the common causes cited for the Civil War and why so many factors contributed to the Confederacy's defeat. A fair criticism can be made that this book is not alternative history in the purest sense of the word. A more common scenario in such tales might more practically be derived from something like having the South win at Gettysburg. However, the addi Entertaining and Thought Provoking Turtledove's Guns of the South, provides a rollicking good read as well as a great deal of insight into some of the common causes cited for the Civil War and why so many factors contributed to the Confederacy's defeat. A fair criticism can be made that this book is not alternative history in the purest sense of the word. A more common scenario in such tales might more practically be derived from something like having the South win at Gettysburg. However, the adding of an element of time travel using both racism as it survived into the 21st century as well as the introduction of technology that helps the south to overcome the overwhelming odds it faced proves effective in the author's ability to highlight the points being made. The South was fighting in many regards not only the Union but also world opinion and trends that argue poignantly that even if the South had been successful militarily, it arguably would not have been able to preserve its preexisting society. Clearly this book helps to illustrate that Slavery was a driving force in the causes of the Civil War but that it was once cause intertwined with many issues that in the end, would have resulted in change even with another military and political outcome. The writing is well paced, plausable with a large dose of credulity, and most of all, entertaining and well researched. 5 Stars. I recommend it.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Libby

    This is the story of what happened when time travelers gave Robert E. Lee advanced weaponry in order for the South to win the Civil War. It is also my favorite alternate universe story. Turtledove is absolutely the best when he undertakes to build an alternate world, whether it is a twin to the Byzantine Empire, the American South or Nazi Germany. His viewpoint characters are so vivid, so alive that I feel that I know them well. Their thoughts describe their experiences with wry humor and rueful This is the story of what happened when time travelers gave Robert E. Lee advanced weaponry in order for the South to win the Civil War. It is also my favorite alternate universe story. Turtledove is absolutely the best when he undertakes to build an alternate world, whether it is a twin to the Byzantine Empire, the American South or Nazi Germany. His viewpoint characters are so vivid, so alive that I feel that I know them well. Their thoughts describe their experiences with wry humor and rueful wisdom. His knowledge of history is both wide and deep and he twists it so plausibly that his cloned worlds become as real and complex as our own. Even when I think that I have caught an error or an anachronism, his cunning plotting explains it, or I discover that I was mistaken. This universe begins to split from our own when Lee experiments with the weapons supplied him by mysterious strangers and discovers what his troops can do with superior rate of fire. At first, Lee doesn't know where his enigmatic gun dealers come from or why they would want to help the Confederacy, and as the story progresses, he begins to suspect that it has little to do with altruism, but he cannot lightly discard the great advantage their wares can give him. I will not dilute your enjoyment with plot spoilers, but I will urge you not only to read this one, but to pass it on to others. This is the really good stuff that any avid reader is looking for. When God is bored, he reads Harry Turtledove.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Zachary

    Strange as the premise may seem, this novel works quite well. It is a plausible look at what might have happened had the Confederacy somehow managed to get its hands on advanced weaponry and the expertise required to use it. Time traveling is as good a reason as any for Robert E Lee to be holding an Uzi, as the author says, and the inherent ridiculousness of the image is tempered by the seriousness of the novel as a whole. This book doesn't shy away from addressing the issue of slavery, and in f Strange as the premise may seem, this novel works quite well. It is a plausible look at what might have happened had the Confederacy somehow managed to get its hands on advanced weaponry and the expertise required to use it. Time traveling is as good a reason as any for Robert E Lee to be holding an Uzi, as the author says, and the inherent ridiculousness of the image is tempered by the seriousness of the novel as a whole. This book doesn't shy away from addressing the issue of slavery, and in fact makes a key plot point of doing so. There is consequently an amount of racist language which must be taken for what it is, period speech, and nothing more than that. It is a remarkable feat that the author manages to make the characters largely sympathetic despite their world views widely diverging from 21st century norms. There is a romantic subplot handled quite well, and the ending feels satisfying and fits neatly with the story. I can happily recommend this book to history buffs, as with Turtledove's other work. Even if you aren't one of those, it's a fun and accessible read.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Kenny

    The difficult thing about alternate history is that one must know the original history to recognize the departures therefrom. The wonderful thing about alternate history is it challenges you to become more informed about the original history, which I have done as I read this slow-moving but ultimately satisfying Civil War tale of the 19th century Confederacy gaining access to 20th century weapons: AK-47 machine guns. The only drawback is the author's clear 20th century POV: slavery is so wrong, The difficult thing about alternate history is that one must know the original history to recognize the departures therefrom. The wonderful thing about alternate history is it challenges you to become more informed about the original history, which I have done as I read this slow-moving but ultimately satisfying Civil War tale of the 19th century Confederacy gaining access to 20th century weapons: AK-47 machine guns. The only drawback is the author's clear 20th century POV: slavery is so wrong, and the proponents thereof (time-traveling Nazis!) are so distasteful, that the anti-slavery argument is too heavy-handed, though the historical aspects, especially the battles, are handled with aplomb and subtlety. Ahh: the problem with time-traveling authors is they take their modern sensibilities with them, just as the Nazis did. It would have been more interesting to have the divide between the bigoted Nazis and the honorable R.E. Lee be a bit narrower. Overall, a worthy effort. I intend to check out more of Turtledove's alternate history efforts.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Kathryn

    At first glance, this seems like one of the sillier ideas out there. "Oo, what would happen if somebody traveled back in time and supplied the Confederacy with AK-47's?" Sounds like an excuse to make a "300"-style movie, with lots of improbable action scenes and Confederate soldiers toting around modern weapons while gritting out one-liners as they mow down the Union troops. Surprisingly, this is a LOT more than that. Turtledove looks, really LOOKS, at what would happen if the Confederacy gained At first glance, this seems like one of the sillier ideas out there. "Oo, what would happen if somebody traveled back in time and supplied the Confederacy with AK-47's?" Sounds like an excuse to make a "300"-style movie, with lots of improbable action scenes and Confederate soldiers toting around modern weapons while gritting out one-liners as they mow down the Union troops. Surprisingly, this is a LOT more than that. Turtledove looks, really LOOKS, at what would happen if the Confederacy gained that kind of firepower. You've got the guns, so now what? How would THIS battle be affected. How would winning a battle HERE change how things turned out THERE. And to make things even MORE complicated, you get to see how things turn out after the war. General Lee comes out surprisingly well in this book, since he's the one who finally starts to ask the questions about the people who provide the guns, and what their real motive is for helping the South win.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Tom

    Phew! This was one of those lost weekend books. I haven't had a reading experience like that in about a decade or so. I guess, fortunately, I've been sick, so I've had the ability to read more or less to my heart's content. You will learn from this book, but not in the "learning is fun" kind of way--in the way that you'll know the history like you know a good friend. You don't remember just how you learned it, you just did. And yet you'll also be transported by a skillful piece of science fiction Phew! This was one of those lost weekend books. I haven't had a reading experience like that in about a decade or so. I guess, fortunately, I've been sick, so I've had the ability to read more or less to my heart's content. You will learn from this book, but not in the "learning is fun" kind of way--in the way that you'll know the history like you know a good friend. You don't remember just how you learned it, you just did. And yet you'll also be transported by a skillful piece of science fiction. It's full of tension, action, moral complexity, and singingly accurate historical detail that brings you right there. Never did I feel like I was being lectured to. I felt, rather, that I was transported to another time. I feel it's about the closest thing I'll ever get to living in Robert E. Lee's world.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Mary JL

    This is an excellent alternate history book. The premise is simple: what if the South had won the US Civil War? I have read quite a bit of actual Civil War history and Turtledove has doe his research well. If there are any glaring historical erros, I missed them. The characterizations of Abraham Lincoln and Robert E. Lee are very, very well handled, plus a large cast of secondary characters. Some of the political problems faced by the new Southern nation are touched on; which I found especially int This is an excellent alternate history book. The premise is simple: what if the South had won the US Civil War? I have read quite a bit of actual Civil War history and Turtledove has doe his research well. If there are any glaring historical erros, I missed them. The characterizations of Abraham Lincoln and Robert E. Lee are very, very well handled, plus a large cast of secondary characters. Some of the political problems faced by the new Southern nation are touched on; which I found especially interesting. Though this book is listed in mostbookstore as science fiction, I beleive anyone with an interest in history would enjoy it as well.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Billy Roper

    The subject matter is interesting and his military research passes muster, but political correctness clouds the rest of his narrative as Turtledove seems blithely unaware of Lincoln's support for the American Colonization Society. Frankly, in all modesty, I think that MY alternate reality story of the American Civil War, 'Look Away: an alternate history of the Civil War' is much more accurate and believable. Decide for yourselves. Look Away: An Alternate History of the Civil War

  27. 5 out of 5

    Paul Gaya Ochieng Simeon Juma

    I rushed through this book. I could not help it. But that does not mean that I never enjoyed it. There is a difference. The main reason why I rushed through it was because I wanted to begin on a new set of books which I had just bought and could not stop staring at them. That is the brutal truth. 'The Guns of the South' confused me from the start. Of course, it is a novel about the American civil war. Only, I thought it was non-fiction. I guess I assumed it that way because of the other books on I rushed through this book. I could not help it. But that does not mean that I never enjoyed it. There is a difference. The main reason why I rushed through it was because I wanted to begin on a new set of books which I had just bought and could not stop staring at them. That is the brutal truth. 'The Guns of the South' confused me from the start. Of course, it is a novel about the American civil war. Only, I thought it was non-fiction. I guess I assumed it that way because of the other books on the subject which I have read have always been non-fiction. So, when I reached at page 50 I started questioning the story itself. The author was talking about AK-47 rifles which the confederates were using. There were also a few generals who I had never come across in my previous readings. Then the confederates won the war here. That is when I knew that I was in for a treat. I have always imagined the South winning the war and what would have happened. Turtledove has played directly to my imagination. In the end, I breathed a sigh of relief and accepted with great satisfaction the defeat of the confederates. General Robert Lee has always been my hero. I could not bear to see the power struggles which would have followed any victory by the South. Of course I do not know what would have happened and neither do I know Lee's stand on Slavery. But am glad fate turned out the way it did. Let us not change it.

  28. 4 out of 5

    James Jacobsen

    So Afrikaners develop a time machine but the earliest they can go back in time is the spring of 1864. Their goal is to establish a White regime that can survive independently into the future so the obvious starting point is the struggling Southern Confederacy in March 1864. They bring automatic weapons and in the first few pages General Lee is delighted with the taste of instant coffee. Anyway what with this assistance the South prevails and Lee is the second president after Davis, he emancipate So Afrikaners develop a time machine but the earliest they can go back in time is the spring of 1864. Their goal is to establish a White regime that can survive independently into the future so the obvious starting point is the struggling Southern Confederacy in March 1864. They bring automatic weapons and in the first few pages General Lee is delighted with the taste of instant coffee. Anyway what with this assistance the South prevails and Lee is the second president after Davis, he emancipates the slaves so the second war has to take care of the disappointed Afrikaners (but some of them get their 40 acres and a mule and are molified). What intrigued me was the the treatment of what would have been the post-war negotiated points (border states allegiance) and the like. This is a fun and thoughtful read.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Robert

    This is the best alternative history novel I've read so far. There wasn't a single dull page and every aspect is clearly well thought out and researched. A must read for those who like alternative history.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Kjartan Birgir

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. The Guns of the South is an alternate history book by Harry Turtledove, arguably the master of alternate historical fiction. In Guns of the South the unthinkable happens and the Confederacy wins the civil war with slave owners retaining their “right” of owning slaves. Southern victory was achieved by the means of 21st century time travelers (South-African neo-Nazis to be exact) who introduce the AK-47 assault rifle to the Confederate forces allowing them to outgun their opponents and swiftly cla The Guns of the South is an alternate history book by Harry Turtledove, arguably the master of alternate historical fiction. In Guns of the South the unthinkable happens and the Confederacy wins the civil war with slave owners retaining their “right” of owning slaves. Southern victory was achieved by the means of 21st century time travelers (South-African neo-Nazis to be exact) who introduce the AK-47 assault rifle to the Confederate forces allowing them to outgun their opponents and swiftly claim victory. Naturally the book covers a delicate subject and any discussion about a possible Confederate victory in the civil war is incomplete without wondering what the status of the slaves would be. Guns of the South tackles this subject in a realistic manner. General Lee is elected Confederate President in 1867, he had witnessed the ferocity with which black soldiers fought with in the Union army and so had many other Southerners which made him and others find new found respect to their “inferiors” and fear a possible slave revolt. Not to mention the fact that he had access to a history book from the 20th century, which covered the events of our timeline in which the South lost and showed how slavery was considered something only a criminal state would employ in the modern age. Subsequently President Lee passes a bill which would have slowly given blacks full civil rights, this law is comparable to the abolition of slavery in the Empire of Brazil which slowly progressed until its eventual abolition in 1888. The book itself is an enjoyable read and Turtledove gives one a fascinating input on the progress of events through the eyes of General Lee (later President Lee) and Nate Caudell a sergeant in the Confederate army. These two characters present the reader with two different viewpoints, the more historically interesting events surrounding Lee and what Confederate victory meant for ordinary people through the eyes of Nate Caudell. Sadly the book does not have any major black characters, although this does not mean that blacks are excluded from the story but are merely in the background. I found this rather disappointing and I’m sure the book would have benefited with a point of view of a black slave. The two protagonists Lee and Caudell are abolitionists and are always on friendly terms with the black characters they come across, be they slaves or not. This is not true of some of the more dislikeable and outright racist characters such as General Forrest (future KKK founder) and many of the time travelling Nazis whose savage treatment of black slaves is considered grotesque even by slavery supporting Southerners. The love interest of Nate Caudell, Mollie Bean, is an interesting character. She is a former prostitute turned soldier in the Confederate forces who had to conceal her identity to fight alongside the men. A handful of examples of secret female soldiers in the civil war are well documented on both sides of the conflict, so she does not seem entirely out of place for the time period. Guns of the South is definitely one of the more interesting books I have read on the American Civil War and possibly the best alternate history novel I have read in some time, maybe on par with Robert Harris’ best seller Fatherland. I easily recommend the book to any fan of history or the civil war who has probably wondered, what if the South had won?

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