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    Review of STARS & STRIPES TRIUMPHANT by Harry Harrison


    Del Rey, January 2003

    The uneasy peace between the United States, reunited after England foolishly attacked both parties during the American Civil War, seems destined to be shortlived and Undersecretary Fox and General Sherman take advantage of a Russian aristocrat's offer to spy on the British. Sherman comes up with a plan for invasion--a plan made possible by several wonderful inventions by John Ericsson (inventor of the Monitor in our own history). When the British push too hard on America, trying to forbid cotton exports to France and Germany, and refuse to stop raiding the newly independent Irish, Abraham Lincoln unleashes the U.S. army under Generals Sherman, Lee, and Grant.

    The best alternate history takes a single decision and reverses it. In the STARS & STRIPES series, author Harry Harrison reverses the British decision not to intervene in the American Civil War, together with the monsterous mistake of attacking both sides. That the two sides could have come together if attacked by a common foe is not beyond conception and makes for an interesting historical alternative.

    The first half of this novel consists of Sherman's spying venture. Harrison's writing is tight and he throws in enough danger to keep the reader fascinated. The largely militaristic second half is somewhat less interesting depending as it does on Ericsson's invention of the internal combustion engine, the decision to use this engine to drive tanks through England, and on completely ineffectual resistance on the part of the British. Sadly, the British use of concentration camps to hold their possibly disloyal Irish workers sounds possible given the historic contempt that the English held for their Irish cousins.

    I'd appreciate feedback from readers of this book who find parallels with current (2003) political discussions and decisions on going to war. Intentional or not, I think that STARS & STRIPES holds some interesting lessons and thoughts for today's world.

    See more reviews of novels by Harry Harrison.

    Three Stars

    Reviewed 3/21/03

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