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The Great War: Walk in Hell by Harry Turtledove

Published by Del Ray Books

Reviewed by Leigh Kimmel

The Great War: Walk in Hell by Harry Turtledove is the continuation of the story begun in American Front. In an alternate world where the South won the Civil War, World War I is being fought on American soil. The Union is allied with Germany, while the Confederacy has sided with France and England. Thus the Union is fighting a two-front war, against the Confederacy and Canada, and offering covert aid to the rebellious Irish in order to draw British attention away from the war effort.

Turtledove keeps the focus firmly on the individuals fighting the war and shows the larger political issues only as it affects them. This is a very large cast, ranging from Canadian farmers (both the Anglo-Canadian McGregors and the Quebecois Galtiers) to a Boston fisherman's wife fearing for her husband's safety now that he is in the Navy to the Black Reds (former slaves who have become acquainted with Marxism and try to establish a Marxist state within the Confederacy), as well as soldiers and sailors on all sides. Unlike many war novels, in which the major characters keep coming through incredible danger and only spear-carriers ever die, none of the characters in this novel is guaranteed to survive. Turtledove pulls no punches in showing that war is hell, and kills off several major characters.

The end of this book marks the midpoint of the Great War sequence, and while some of the threads are resolved, the war is not nearly over. There will be two more books yet to come, and there is no telling how the war will end up. We only know that it will be very different from what we know in our own world.

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Review posted November 23, 1999