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Aa, kudo nari...

Had originally planned to go home, eat a sandwich or two, and then do some packing, but that didn't happen - phoenixalpha called and suggested we go out for Chinese food and conversation, and since I really haven't seen much of her lately I took her up on it. We wound up going from the New Century in East Bloomington over to Half Price Books in St. Louis Park and then down to the Wal-Mart in Shakopee, which is in the throes of remodeling and has moved just about everything but the registers to a new location. It somewhat resembles the Eagan store, only backwards. Anyway, she picked up reading material for the midnight shift, No-Doz, a water bottle and a lunch box with coolant; I picked up some books I probably could have waited to buy, some starch component and dairy product for breakfasts, and some popcorn and Nutty Bars, the latter of which I needed like a hole in the head. I finished them off along with Harry Turtledove's Drive To The East. Review after the cut.

This is an okay novel, not a great one, and having said that it's an improvement over the previous volume in the ten-volume alternate history that starts with How Few Remain. The improvements come with the trimming of some narrative fat: we no longer have to endure endless repetitive reintroductions of characters, and some minor POV characters get killed off as well. Unfortunately, the POV characters we're left with don't tell us everything we need to know about the fourth War Between The States, not by a long shot. We get glimpses of the war in the Pacific against the Japanese, vignettes of the fighting in Deseret, and snapshots of the fighting in the Ohio Valley that leads to the battle of Stalingrad - er, Pittsburgh. Which leads me to my biggest gripe about this book.

Not for the first time in Turtledove's books, I get the impression that the man is just going through the motions, shoehorning the USA and CSA into the historical templates he wants them to fill. He decided it would be cool to refight the Stalingrad campaign in eastern Ohio and western Pennsylvania, with Pittsburgh serving as the Confederates' Stalingrad (right down to using Mexican divisions in place of the Rumanians) but would it have taken that much time and effort to game it out? Even a casual look at the terrain shows that there's no neat, clean equivalence between the two cities and the regions they're located in, and the armies of the Confederacy and the Union alike are very different from Hitler's Wehrmacht and the Red Army. Further, his treatment of the MacArthur-analog is disgustingly inaccurate and a discredit to Turtledove's status as a historian. Douglas MacArthur may have had an enormous ego, but as Dizzy Dean used to say, "It ain't braggin' if you can do it," and MacArthur's feats in both World Wars (to say nothing of Korea) do not justify his portrayal in Drive to the East as a pigheaded incompetent along the lines of Haig or Burnside.

I should have waited and bought it used, but nooooo...


Professor Bainbridge liked it better than I did; some of his readers/commenters, not so much. Stacy in particular echoes a lot of my dissatisfaction with the series.