Wednesday, July 20, 2011
For Want of a Nail was written by author Robert Sobel (1993-1999) in the year 1971. At that time Sobel, who was a business historian, was between contracts, and so wrote For Want of a Nail to give himself something to do.
Basically, the point of divergence occurs in 1777 when the British win the Battle of Saratoga, during the American Revolutionary War. In 1778 the colonists are forced to capitulate to the British, many of the Founding Fathers, such as George Washington, are imprisoned, while Thomas Jefferson and others are executed in London.
To remedy the causes of the war, the British reorganize the colonies into the Confederation of North America, giving the colonies more control over their own affairs while reserving some powers to Great Britain.
Many of the formers rebels leave the CNA to escape British rule. Heading west they occupy roughly the area that Texas would be in real life, and form the State of Jefferson, an independent country. In 1805, Mexico is engulfed in a drawn-out civil war, which Jefferson enters in 1817 when Andrew Jackson leads an army to capture Mexico City.
Jackson then engineers the combination of the two countries to form the United States of Mexico.
The book presents itself as a college-level history text from that world, covering the historical, political, social and economic events from 1763 to 1970.
This is probably the most detailed alternate history fiction ever written. And what's more impressive is that Sobel wrote it to give himself something to do in his spare time.
Sunday, July 17, 2011
Republic imagines a United States, somewhere in the near future, where taxes are at 60%, the economy is in a severe recession, and the US government has become oppressive and ignores the Constitution at will.
It begins in a small town in West Virginia. A labor dispute involving the local computer chip factory brings a violent response from the federal government. The main characters, employees at the factory, are also members of the West Virginia National Guard.
The federal governments response to the labor dispute is only the latest in a series of violent actions committed by the justice department. When the citizens of West Virginia decide that the only way to protect themselves and their rights, is to secede from the United States, the West Virginia National Guard is called upon to protect their state from the inevitable US invasion.
Simply put: this was an amazing and emotional novel. The characters were compelling as was the storyline. The pacing was particularly good, with only a few parts of the story getting in the way of an overall superb plot.
The author drew much of his inspiration for the novel from the federal government's actions in Waco, Texas and the 2001 Patriot Act.
Charles Sheehan-Miles deserves mention for the political angle of his book. Whereas other authors would have simply portrayed such a story from a left-wing or right-wing angle, Sheehan-Miles portrays it from a perspective that almost American can understand and sympathize with. This is particularly true with the subject of secession. It is presented not as a right-wing or "Neo-Confederate" idea, but as a last resort to protect the state and it's citizens from an overbearing federal government.
I don't read fiction very much, but I have read this book twice in the last six months. It's that important.
Read it for yourself.