Harry Turtledove marches on through history with The Great War: Walk in Hell. In his alternate timeline, the Confederate States of America won the Civil War, aided by Britain and France. In the 1880s (How Few Remain), Americans fought again after the CSA acquired parts of Mexico--and the CSA won again. When WWI begins with Archduke Ferdinand's assassination in 1914 (The Great War: American Front), the 34-state USA under Teddy Roosevelt allies with Imperial Germany and Austria against Britain, France, Russia, Japan, Canada, and Woodrow Wilson's CSA. Trenches divide Canada, fierce fighting rages from Tennessee and Kentucky into Pennsylvania, a Mormon uprising against the USA consumes Utah, and a black socialist rebellion distracts the CSA, where slavery has ended but blacks still await full citizenship.|
Walk in Hell takes us from fall, 1915, through 1916. Soldiers, sailors, and airmen continue the fight, but much happens behind the lines too. Turtledove's characters include Jewish immigrants who are socialist and antiwar, a widow running a coffee house in CSA-occupied Washington, D.C., who passes information to the USA, and two Canadian farmers living under U.S. occupation in Quebec and Manitoba. He vividly conveys the human side of war. When Joe Hammerschmitt gets a shoulder wound in the Virginia trenches:
... pain warred with exultation on his long, thin face. Exultation won. 'Got me a hometowner, looks like,' he said happily. Half the men up there with him made sympathetic noises; the other half looked frankly jealous. Hammerschmitt was going to be out of the firing line for weeks, maybe months, to come, and they still risked not just death but horrible mutilation every day.
Some find Turtledove's cast too large, the story's action too slow. Others complain that Walk in Hell is too similar to his Worldwar series. Alternate history buffs, however, will marvel at his mastery of detail, enjoy following his logic as he pursues military and social developments onward in time, and find it hard to wait for the next in the series.
Source: Nona Vero, Amazon.com.