CIVIL WAR II BY DON PENDLETON

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Copyright 1971.

The year is 1999. America has reverted to a rural and predominantly agricultural nation. The racial situation is not very good. Blacks are mostly confined to the cities that are left called Towns. There have been two paths of advancement for black. The federal bureaucracy and the military. In fact the military is totally made up of blacks from the generals to the enlisted men. Michael Winston is the commissioner for Urban Affairs sort of the federal agency that takes care of the Towns. He stumbles on a military coup that the blacks plan. When he tries to warn his superiors including the President he gets ignored. The corrupt President has he own plans to use this coup to solidify his power.

Anyway the coup starts and the United Negro Army seizes power and occupies the country. Their demands are that America has to come up with a more equitable arrangement for its twenty million blacks. They appoint a provisional government headed by Michael Winston. Winston has some success at first with reversing the more authoritarian policies of the past regime. Yet old hatreds still flare out and threaten to derail any peace. Blacks in the south have decided to take out payback on past injustices and soon go on a rampage. Winston is forced to detonate nuclear explosions over the south to stop the fighting. Soon their is a reconciliation of the races and America emerges as a positive force in the world.

Don Pendleton is best know for the Executioner series. Probably the most successful men’s adventure series ever. He is probably the grandfather of that genre. He also did some stand alone novels. This one is a very odd little take on the future. It has a future 1999 filled with flying cars. Commuter planes with their own private rooms equipped with showers and the optional sex with the stewardess. There are also Federal subsidized sex clubs. (Does something like that really need a subsidy to stay in business?) There are pay churches with tradition, non-denominational and new age services. It is definitely dated and feels weird with all the goofy stuff that was envisioned for the future from a seventies perspective.

Still this book is a fascinating read. The future it envisioned didn’t quite turn out. It did though have a very upbeat ending with the races reconciling. A good book to read if you want to see how they envisioned the future back than.

PACIFIC NIGHTMARE BY SIMON WINCHESTER

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Copyright 1992.

It is Thanksgiving 1999 and an American B-2 stealth bomber takes off from Whitman Air Force base. Its destination is to drop an atomic bomb over Tokyo bay. So how did this come about. The story then goes back to 1996 and the events around the handing over of Hong Kong to the mainland Chinese. The Beijing government decides to appoint a hardline Maoism northerner to the post of governor. This causes riots during the handover. The Triad gangs are the main resistance to the Communist government. When they assassinate a policeman in the neighboring city of Canton it results in innocent men being executed for the crime. Soon a demonstration sees elements of the army and government side with the protesters. Soon the southern Chinese provinces are in rebellion and a civil war rages. The Japanese with a new right-wing government flexes their military by sending troops into China to protect Japanese property and citizens. The Chinese plan to retaliate with their nuclear weapons so the U.S. drops a nuke over Tokyo bay to get the Japanese to back down and prevent a wider nuclear tragedy.

So this book is a pseudo-history of what at the time was the future handover of Hong Kong. Obviously the author got it all wrong. The transition was very smooth and up until now they have abided by their agreement to not change the way Hong Kong was governed for fifty years. They actually waited for twenty so that’s actually longer than I thought they would. The book is a very dry read and somewhat dull. This the author’s only fiction novel. He is known mostly for non-fiction. With the current protests in Hong Kong I thought I would revisit this book. When I first read it I was somewhat disappointed. As I said it is a dull dry read.

Yet I found it interesting to read now as what someone thought would happen but years after the fact you know what really happened. Back in the early nineties after the Tiananmen Square massacre there was belief the country was heading toward a civil war. Instead the government just made money and a combination of carrot and stick kept the people complacent. Now they are having troubles and who knows what the future holds for China.

Another early nineties thing was to resurrect the old Axis enemies. In this case Japan which was seen as splitting with the U.S. and pursuing an expansionist policy. Obviously that didn’t happen either. I found it a bit goofy that they had to resort to dropping a low yield nuke over Tokyo bay and killed hundreds of people to get the Japanese to back off on their troop deployments. I mean you’d think just showing them the Chinese preparations to launch their missiles at Japan would be enough for them to get the message.

So anyway this isn’t probably for everyone.

FREEDOM’S RANGERS 6 SNOW KILL BY KEITH WILLIAM ANDREWS

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Copyright 1991.

Travis Hunter and his rangers are stationed at base 990. The base is located 990 A.D. in the wilds of America. The purpose is for them to not be caught in any change to history that the VBU would make. This proves to be a good idea as the Soviets have once again changed history. When they can’t contact their base in 2008 a jump to 1991 shows that America is now under the control of the Soviets. Studying a history book they find out the change occurred during the Battle of the Bulge. The German offensive was successful and they were able to get in range and use nuclear bombs to destroy London and the channel ports. The allied armies collapsed and the Soviets were able to roll over all of Europe. The Americans were later able to nuke Japan and win that war but the experience in Europe turned America to an isolationist path. The Soviets manages to take control of the world and in 1956 a brief war further reduced America to poverty. So by the 1970’s a Communist revolution occurred and the Soviets were invited in as peacekeepers.

So now Hunter and his Rangers must go to the Ardennes in December 1944. Disguised as American troops they must stop the Soviets from helping the Germans. All the while they have to survive the Malmedy Massacre and not screw up history so it comes out as it should.

The final book in the series once again has our heroes saving time from the insidious Soviets. The plan to change the outcome with altering the Battle of the Bulge is a sound one. The history is plausible and is written with much attention to historical detail. You learn a lot about the battle from this story just as you do with the other books in the series. A consistently well written and researched series. It kept the rules for time travel that was established consistent and plausible.

Now by 1991 it was obvious that the Soviets weren’t going to conquer the world. On the author’s web page it tells that the final book they wanted to write would have had them travel back to the eighties and save an unknown Soviet apparatchik named Gorbachev from assassination. Thus ensuring that America won the Cold War. That would have fit the current world reality and gave the series a sense of closure. Unfortunately the publisher pulled the plug on the series and book was never written. So we will just have to content ourselves with knowing they succeeded in changing time for the better.

FREEDOM’S RANGERS 5 SINK THE ARMADA! BY KEITH WILLIAM ANDREWS

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Copyright 1990.

Travis Hunter and his team are in 1848 Paris investigating the presence of the VBU. They find their headquarters but its a trap and they are captured. They find themselves transported to the VBU base at Guantanamo Cuba in 1588. The Soviets have a plan to destroy the English fleet and thus prevent the English from ever colonizing America. Thus there would be no United States to oppose them. Now this affects a great deal of European history so they have set up a base in 1588 so they can monitor and make changes to history to ensure Soviet world domination.

Hunter and his men manage to escape and call their base for help. They take over the Soviet base and then go out after their agents. Only the Soviets detonate a nuke at Guantanamo and destroy their captured base. Hunter and his men are picked up by a passing English privateer. They get back to England and find out the Soviets have brought back an Oscar class submarine and four Osa class patrol boats. More than enough to take out the English fleet. So they must figure out a way to destroy them or else their history is doomed.

The third book takes us very far back in history. So far that changing it could seriously effect the outcome of the Soviet Union in the twentieth century. Trying to monitor and shape history over centuries just seems crazy but the authors do portray the VBU as fanatics. Anyway they fail in this and this is the first book that didn’t have an alternate reality to explore in the future. Some interesting touches like that Guantanamo harbor was formed by their exploding a nuclear bomb back in 1588. The authors also give a very convincing portrait of the time in history so you do feel like you’re actually there. Another exciting book filled with action and historical flavor.

FREEDOM’S RANGERS 4 TREASON IN TIME BY KEITH WILLIAM ANDREWS

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Copyright 1990.

It is 2007 and just before the Battle of Denver. The battle was a disaster for Free American forces and Travis Hunter and his rangers are sent back to alter the outcome. They go back to a crucial pass to alert the garrison there but find the place deserted. The captain of the garrison Hendricks is involved in shaking down the locals for protection money. So Hunter and his men manage to delay the Soviets and alert the high command so the defeat is a resounding victory. Only Hunter and his men are killed.

So several months later Hunter and his men are still alive because the victory means they never have to go back and get killed. Also Captain Hendricks is the one who takes credit for the victory and is now a hero and assigned to Project Chronos. The Americans are going ahead with a plan to go back to 1918 Russia and help Admiral Kolchak consolidate his power over the White faction and defeat the Reds.

So they go back and manage to take over a Soviet time machine located on a train. Hendricks manages to ingratiate himself with Kolchak but this corrupt captain is out for himself. He wants to use the time machine to enrich himself and his corrupt men. A plan to assassinate a popular general of the Czech legion motivates the Czechs to fight for the Whites and defeat the Reds. Only this changes history for the worse. The Nazis are still in power with an allied Russian empire. America never enters the war and the continuing depression results in the American Nazi party taking power in the fifties. Now the whole world is fascist and Hunter and his rangers must stop the corrupt Hendricks and the Soviets to set history right.

Now this book had a new development. The Soviet VBU are more of background players and aren’t the main threat. The main one is a traitorous American who is where he is because of a more recent event that was altered by Project Chronos. This time the future is their doing and it is just as bad if not worse than what the Soviets managed to create. Another enjoyable book with plenty of accurate historical feel. We learn a lot about the Czech legion that group of Czech POWs that were recruited to fight WWI and find themselves now stuck in a hostile Russian civil war. The series maintains a consistent treatment of the rules it’s established for time travel and the outcomes seem plausible. A very well written series.

FREEDOM’S RANGERS 3 SEARCH AND DESTROY BY KEITH WILLIAM ANDREWS

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Copyright 1990.

Travis Hunter and his Freedom’s Rangers with their British allies have managed to save George Washington’s life back in 1777. Only they find that the alternate world of British North America still exists back in 2007. Whats worse is the Soviets of that time have launched an all out invasion. Hunter and his allies fight off an assault on the time facilities. Only time is running out and soon reinforcements will arrive. They research the new history and find that the Soviets must have had two teams back in 1777. The other one used modern mortars at the Battle of Saratoga to ensure a British victory. Saratoga was the first victory for the American rebellion that lead to French recognition and later direct aid. So Hunter and a mixed group of his rangers and British SAS escape back to 1777. Now they must defeat a well armed VBU presence that includes two helicopters the Soviet brought back with them.

So the authors decided to give us another story set back in 1777. Must have spent a lot of time researching the era and were really going to use it. Once again the story is fast paced and interesting. The historical setting feels very real and you learn a lot of history about the time and events that took place. Naturally they manage to defeat the Soviets and set back their own timeline. They also get a new member in Dark Walker a Sioux that can exist in the current time even though his history has been rewritten.

FREEDOM’S RANGERS 2 RAIDERS OF THE REVOLUTION BY KEITH WILLIAM ANDREWS

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Copyright 1989.

Travis Hunter and his Freedom’s Rangers are on a mission in 1938 to investigate possible Soviet activity. They do find the VBU agents and in a firefight their recall device is destroyed. They run across another mysterious group of British that are also time travelers from 2007. They escape through their portal and find themselves back in America. Only this America is The Dominion of North America. Seems the Soviets have successfully altered history and changed the outcome of the Revolutionary War. Back in 1777 at the Battle of Brandywine they successfully assassinate George Washington. Without his leadership the revolution collapses and Britain maintains dominance over North America. The Second World War has Hitler successfully invade Britain but the Soviets later manage to conquer Europe. Then they take on the Japanese and by 2007 most of the world is Communist.

Now the free Dominion is being pressured to surrender to the Soviets. But they also have a time travel project nicknamed The Circus located in the Shenandoah mountains of Virginia. They also have plans to change history to their advantage. Hunter manages to convince them to mount an expedition back to 1777 and save Washington.

So the second book has our heroes find out the evil Soviets have once again changed history for the worst. A world without the United States. Fortunately they manage to convince their new British allies to help them even though it means wiping their reality out of existence. Once again a very well written and fast moving story. The authors did their historical research and the world of 1777 feels very real. A fun and enjoyable series.

FREEDOM’S RANGERS BY KEITH WILLIAM ANDREWS

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Copyright 1989.

It is 2007 and in this year the Soviets are winning. They have already conquered western Europe. A revolution in Mexico has destabilized the American government and now U.N. peacekeepers made up of Soviet and Warsaw Pact troops occupy most of the eastern United States. The western states are still part of free America and continue to resist. Lt. Travis Hunter and his ranger squad rescue a scientist and his daughter from Soviet occupied Boston and take them to a secret facility located in the Grand Teton National Park. The facility of Project Chronos or as it’s nicknamed Time Square is the last hope for America. Time travel has been perfected and with it the hope of altering history so the Soviets never become a threat.

The plan is to go back and assassinate Lenin before he is transported to Russia in 1917. The rangers carry out this task. Then the next mission is 1923 Munich. They then plan to assassinate Hitler during the Beer Hall Putsch. Thus the twin evils of Communist and Nazism will never be born. Unfortunately the Soviets have their own time travel project. The VBU the Russian acronym for Time Security Directorate has plans to shape history for Communism’s benefit. They have safely moved Lenin so he wasn’t assassinated. Now in 1923 they want Hitler’s rebellion to succeed so they can manipulate the Communists in taking over Germany. They succeed and Hunter and his rangers find themselves in an alternate 2007. One where a united Communist Germany and Russia have conquered the world. Now they must go back and stop the VBU and right history.

So this series came out in the waning days of Communism. In a way it was a holdover from the eighties and starting to show its age. Now one thing I always wondered was why the Soviets were so obsessed with changing history in this series. I mean they were already winning so why mess with things. The series was very well written. The authors had a very good grasp of history or able to fake it well enough for the casual reader who wasn’t interested in researching the facts. The time mechanics were that the change would move upstream but those sent back before the change would be unaffected. So they could go back into the future without being effected by history. One weird thing the book had was a German wondered if he killed his grandfather during their trip would he not exist. The scientist said that his grandmother would just marry someone different and he would probably have a different last name and hair or eye color. What??!! No that is not how it would work. Basic biology that the guy would just not exist. The writers must have decided on the ridiculousness of this for in the last book someone does get his grandfather killed and erases himself from history.

The series was the first for William Keith who with his brother Andrew wrote this series. Keith would go on to establish the naval action series Carrier and it’s spinoff Seal Team Seven. He also under Ian Douglas wrote about futuristic marines. Both series will someday be in this blog.

BAYONETS, BALLOONS & IRONCLADS BRITAIN AND FRANCE TAKE SIDES WITH THE SOUTH BY PETER G. TSOURAS

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Copyright 2015.

The war has seen some setbacks for the north after Britain and France have intervened. Now things are starting to look up. In New York the Army of the Hudson manages to drive out the British. The French are now stopped at Fort Hudson. Indeed there is a falling out between the French and Confederates as the French openly move to bring back Louisiana into their empire. Lincoln comes up with a bold plan. A force to attack the British Isles. One will land and destroy the Enfield factory in Essex. The other under the Irishman Meagher leads an Irish-American brigade to take over Dublin and declare an Irish Republic. Russia decides to join the war on the north’s side. Soon the raid is a great success. Soon the French army is destroyed and the British driven out of Canada. It ends with a decisive naval victory in the Chesapeake and the fall of Richmond.

So the final book comes to an exciting conclusion. The North has successfully mobilized industry to produce the much needed ironclads and repeater rifles needed. Indeed they manage to build working dirigibles and submarines. What I found interesting is that in the end the status quo was basically unchanged which is rare for an alternate history story to end at. The Confederacy was defeated. Canada was given back in exchange for California which the British successfully invaded. As Lincoln said “California has gold and Canada has ice.” So it was a no brainer.

There were some subtle differences. Booth’s attempt to assassinate Lincoln fails meaning he completed his second term and reconstruction was not dominated by radical Republicans. So there was a much less harsh reintegration. Also the Irish invasion lead to a much more benign English rule that saw Ireland gain its freedom earlier. There still was the Russian war. Prussia joined on their side and Austria on France’s. It is assumed that the end result lead to their victory and the same conditions that lead to France’s resentment and WWI. It gives us no hint at the ending of the war with Russia. That would be a story I would like Tsouras to write as it sounds interesting. I would be interested how the twentieth century turned out with these small changes if any.

This was an excellent series and probably the most realistic I have seen of the scenario of British intervention in the Civil War. Sure there were some fantastic feats like the raids on the British Isle and the steam powered dirigibles were a bit steampunky. But still within the realm of possibility. I definitely will check out his other work in the future.

A RAINBOW OF BLOOD THE UNION IN PERIL BY PETER G. TSOURAS

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Copyright 2010.

In the last book the Union had a decisive victory over the British Navy at Charleston. Only it proved a pyrrhic victory. The fleet was forced to abandon the blockade and British and French aid comes pouring into the South. In the north British forces still are poised in upstate New York and threaten New York City. Portland is under siege. Rosecrans army is also trapped in Chattanooga after the defeat at Chickimauga. The only bright spot is Sherman’s swift crushing of the Copperhead revolt in the Midwest. He becomes known as ‘hanging Billy’ for all the Copperheads hanged.

Further setbacks as the French army has a decisive victory in Louisiana over an incompetent Union general and liberates New Orleans. Sensing his chance Lee launches an all out assault on Washington with the backing of the Royal Navy. Luckily the Union has now gone all out in mobilizing the country. Patriotism is on the rise and tens of thousands flock to enlist or reenlist. Many that were on the fence or against the war change their minds. The Irish that resisted the draft are more than anxious to fight the British. Fifteen thousand join in one day in New York City. General Sharpe forms the Central Information Bureau to gather intelligence. New weapons like repeaters, gatlings and balloons are being produced. Russia decides to support the North and negotiate a treaty to enter the war. They are still upset at the humiliation of the Crimean war and see this as an opportunity to plant the cross on the Hagia Sophia in Constantinople.

Soon Lee’s attack on Washington is beaten back with the help of the coffee mill guns. A balloon manages to sink two Royal Navy ships from the air marking the beginning of aerial warfare. General Hooker the disgraced general of Chancellorsville has a chance at redemption. With the Army of the Hudson manages to deliver a defeat to invading British forces in upper New York at Clavernack. The Union sets in for a fight for the survival of the nation.

The second book sees plenty of battles. I love how Tsouras has such a grasp of the history of each unit in the fight. His battles come off with all the various things that can go right or wrong. The random chance that sees plans succeed or fail. The personalities that can overcome or impede victory. Plus we get to see Lincoln be a total badass when he bashed the head in of his would be assassin during the Battle of Washington. This is riveting reading and I just love this series.