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.

BRITANNIA’S FIST FROM CIVIL WAR TO WORLD WAR BY PETER G. TSOURAS

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Copyright 2008.

It is late 1863 and the Civil War is going good for the Union. Gettysburg and Vicksburg have dealt the South what seems crushing blows. Still Confederate raiders continue to plague northern shipping. This is abetted by the British government turning a blind eye to companies building the raiders. Laird Brothers are constructing two raiders for the South. Known as the Laird Brother’s rams the two ships have state of the art armored turrent and big metal battering rams mounted on the front just like ancient triremes of old. Such ships would be a serious threat to the Union’s commerce. Now in our time diplomatic pressure resulted in the British halting delivery of the ships. In this divergent timeline Lincoln decides to send a warship to intercept them as they leave port.

So the U.S.S Gettysburg intercepts the C.S.S. North Carolina. Only the action takes place in British waters and the H.M.S Liverpool attempts to stop the Gettysburg. A battle results that sinks the Liverpool. Now the North finds itself at war with Great Britain. Soon after Napoleon III enters the war against the North to protect France’s adventure in Mexico. To make matters worse the Copperheads those anti-war democrats rise up in the Mid-West and free thousands of Confederate prisoners. The British strike from the north and capture Albany and start setting the Hudson Valley to the torch. Maine is invaded but the presence of units lead by Gettysburg hero Chamberlain prevent the capture of Portland a vital railroad hub. Now the city is under siege. It ends with a spectacular battle to lift the blockade of Charleston between the British fleet and the North’s fleet of ironclad monitors.

This is the first in a trilogy dealing with an alternate history that sees Britain and France enter the Civil War. I am so glad that I found this series at Half Price because it is the finest alternate history I have ever read. Tsouras a former Army intelligence officer and military historian has replaced Harry Turtledove has my favorite in alternate history fiction. This book is an exciting read from beginning to end. The scenario is plausible and he uses real historical figures with fictional ones used sparingly. He has an extensive bibliography and even goes to the trouble of making up fictional sources for his alternate facts. He has the foresight to put those in italics so you don’t go searching for them.

He wisely decides to use two lesser known figures as the central characters. On the Union side General George H. Sharpe and the English Lt. Colonel Garnet Wolseley. Interesting both are heads of the intelligence services considering this background in that field. It is about how the Union was fighting tied with one hand tied behind it’s back. That many modern weapons like the Spencer repeater and Gatling gun were openly suppressed by the head of Army procurement General Ripley who had a distaste for ‘newfangled gimcracks’. Now with two of the greatest industrial and military powers in war against them the Union has no choice but to mobilize for total war using every new innovation to tip the balance. I absolutely loved this book and the other two in the series also kept me in suspense as we will see in future reviews.

GLOBAL WAR BOOK 2 BORDER WINDS BY CAPT. KEVIN D. RANDLE, USAFR

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Copyright 1992.

The assassination of Fidel Castro in Cuba has not made Latin America more stable. In fact the entire region is rocked with rebellion. In Nicaragua the Sandinistas are launching a military coup to overthrow the government. The Cubans has also decided to send a message to the U.S. by seizing Guantanamo. In Texas a radical militia called the Defenders of the Texas Revolution are planning on striking out. They mount an invasion of Mexico and destroy an American auto plant that they accuse of stealing American jobs. Now the Mexican government wants revenge and plans to launch its own counter-raid to destroy a factory in the U.S.

Once again a huge cast of characters as they battle these various threats. The Green Beret team has to assassinate the Sandinista coup leader on its own because the forces that were scheduled to arrive have to be diverted to Cuba. I think a lot of planned stuff wasn’t included because of the changing nature of the world after the Soviet’s collapse. The second book was supposed to deal with a U.S./Soviet conflict over Ecuador. There was a chapter at the beginning about a Chinese massacre in Tibet that lead nowhere. In fact there was nothing about the planned Vietnamese/China war or Japanese/American clandestine efforts to overthrow the government from the last book. Nor was there anything about the Middle East and its new Iran-Iraq war. It just mainly concentrated on the three hot spots in this hemisphere. The book once again seems dated except for the U.S. army being deployed to the border to deal with the flood of refugees for Latin America.

In fact I felt the author was just writing to fulfill his obligation to deliver a second book knowing that this series was finished. The book itself is OK if not really standing out in any way. I think it was a victim to the rapidly changing circumstances of the time. The idea behind this series was intriguing just not properly executed. So from a historical perspective it is interesting to read.

GLOBAL WAR BOOK 1 DAWN OF CONFLICT BY CAPT. KEVIN D. RANDLE, USAFR

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Copyright 1991.

It is the near future and the world is going through a series of geopolitical changes. The Soviet Union has to deal with its various separatist movements. Even with the demise of both the Warsaw Pact and NATO the Russians still have dreams of world revolution. They have several plans to expand their influence and keep their rivals off balance. China is going through serious internal unrest. American and Japanese operatives are smuggling in propaganda to further destabilize the government. The Russians also plan to start a war between Vietnam and China.

In the Middle East they maneuver to gain influence with both Iran and Iraq as the two countries start another war. They also with the help of Iraq are supporting a coup as the government goes through a power struggle after the death of the king. Cuba is actively supporting the Colombian drug cartels as a Green Beret missions finds out. The U.S. wants Castro dead to stop this support. In fact the Soviets also want him dead because his country is costing them billions and they want someone who will reform the economy. All this is told through a vast cast of characters that include a Green Beret major and his Spetsnaz counterpart. A female Air Force pilot who is taken hostage by the hostile coup in Saudi Arabia and an investigative report.

So this was a new series back in the early nineties that had a very ambitious premise. That the near future would see a series of destabilizing changes and various low level armed conflicts around the world. Unfortunately it came out in December 1991 just as the Soviet Union collapses so even as I was reading it back then it seemed dated. I think he did a good job of coming to his hypothesis for the future. Cuba would have been a serious economic drain on the Soviets if they continued on so I could see them wanting to get rid of Castro. The drug trade was a hot topic then and so was a possible civil war in China after the Tiananmen Square massacre. Also the demise of NATO after the fall of the Berlin Wall was a logical speculation.

Of course history came out very differently. So this book can be read as a window into the thinking of the time. The book itself was OK. The story did drag on some places but keeps the reader interested enough to finish the book. This was written by Kevin Randle who has his official military title used to give the series a feel of authenticity. He was an Air Force intelligence officer and before that served as a helicopter pilot in the army during Vietnam. He is a prolific writer who has written such various fiction works in action, science fiction and Vietnam war series including the excellent Vietnam Ground Zero series. His big claim to fame appears to be he is an expert on UFOs and has written many non-fiction books on the subject.

TANNHAUSER ENIGMA BY JAMES SWALLOW

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Copyright 2013.

The Reich is developing a new weapon. Reichdoktor Hoss Harbinger the number two man in the Reich has developed a new device called Enigma. Enigma harnesses the powers from hell to take control of branded soldiers and turn them into one hive mind. They also can change into monsters. This weapon has the power to turn whole nations into an unstoppable army. So the Union sends in a small commando squad lead by RAF pilot Rick Cross and Lt. Caitlin “Hoax” Lamsbury. Using a prototype jet they drop into occupied Norway. There they join forces with Major Volkov of the Matriarchy. Known as the iron major the two groups mound an assault on Aesir the massive floating platform that is a combination aircraft carrier and landing craft as it assaults the city of Aberdeen. The fate of the world hangs in the balance.

The finally in the Tannhauser trilogy. This one decided to not use the characters of Von Heizinger and Major McNeal. Instead we get new heroes and villains which is a nice change of pace. Hoss Harbinger is some sort of immortal demi-god that has plans to eventually take over the world and destroy it. Hoax and Volkov are characters that briefly appeared in the first two books. We get a look into Britain and some of the occupied territories. Throw in a turncoat traitor, secret agents and a mercenary squad of aviators known as the Autonomous Alliance of Aces and you have a fun and exciting story.

So the series on the whole was intriguing. Based on a board game a lot of details for this alternate reality where the Great War never ended were never fully explained. The origin of the characters could still be explored. The history on why the change in history. Why is Thomas Edison over hundred? Why have they never figured out nuclear bombs since this is 1954? Many questions to explore if they decide to write any future books. I found the trilogy at Half Price Books and somehow it just called to me to buy it. Otherwise I would have never known of its existence. It must have been fate.