Reviews by Evelyn C. Leeper

Reviews by Evelyn C. Leeper

All reviews copyright 1984-2012 Evelyn C. Leeper.


GETTYSBURG by Newt Gingrich & William R. Forstchen:

[From "This Week's Reading", MT VOID, 10/17/2003]

Newt Gingrich and William R. Forstchen's GETTYSBURG, on the other hand, has a lot of detail. Alas, it's all military maneuvers rather than interesting political or social developments. This is the first book of a projected trilogy, so maybe this will come, but I'm not holding my breath. (For that matter, "1945" was the first of a projected series, but it did so poorly that the series was canceled.) Other quibbles include: Lee's horse was "Traveller", not "Traveler". Chamberlain was called "Lawrence", not "Joshua". And why do the authors refer to characters sometimes by their first names and sometimes by their last (and in the case of Chamberlain, both those and by his middle name as well!), often on the same page? And I'm not talking about in dialogue. Henry Hunt should be either "Henry" or "Hunt", preferably the latter, but not both alternating. (Lee and Lincoln seem to be among the few characters who escape this fate.)

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GRANT COMES EAST by Newt Gingrich & William F. Forstchen:

[From "This Week's Reading", MT VOID, 01/28/2005]

Newt Gingrich and William F. Forstchen's GRANT COMES EAST is the middle book of a trilogy (assuming it ends at three) and suffers from the usual flaws inherent in that position. But I didn't much like the first one either, because it consisted almost entirely of battle movements. Some may like this, but it's not my cup of tea. On a more minor level, someone decided to use the Presidential Seal to flag the sections centering on Lincoln, but the Presidential Seal did not come into existence until Rutherford B. Hayes--twenty years later. (The Great Seal of the United States did exist in Lincoln's time, but did not say "Seal of the President of the United States" around the border. It also had the eagle facing towards its left until 1945, when it was changed to regularize it with the Great Seal.) You may be asking why I read this if I didn't like the first one. As a Sidewise judge, I have to read whatever is eligible to give it a fair chance.

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1945 by Newt Gingrich & William R. Fortschen (Baen, ISBN 0-671-87739-9, 1995, 382pp, paperback):

I suppose it's only fair to state up front that Newt Gingrich is not one of my favorite people. I still think I can be objective about this review, but I thought I should at least say that.

It's also worth noting up front that on page 382, the book says "To Be Continued...," and indeed ends rather abruptly in the middle of events, though the jacket does not indicate anywhere that this is the first book of the series. This leads people to ask where Gingrich is going to find the time to write the sequel, which in turn leads them to ask how much of this he actually wrote. Who knows? He was a professor of history, so he does have the background for developing the concept, but it's not unreasonable to assume that most of the actual writing was Forstchen's.

The premise of this alternate history is that at the time of Pearl Harbor, Hitler was in a coma from a plane crash and so could not declare war on the United States. As a result, the Pacific War was quickly won by us, while Germany overran Europe, leaving only England standing against it. This could be a fascinating examination of the world that would have resulted, but instead it's an excuse for long descriptions of armaments and the use of incredibly stale clichés ("The film [of the death camps] had run counter to everything he had ever thought he knew about a culture that could produce Goethe, Beethoven and Schiller."). And it falls into the trap of preaching: "There were times when a man had to lay his life on the line, and that meant not just his physical life--most servicemen understood and accepted the probability that from time to time they must step in harm's way--but his career as well, which far too many were afraid to risk." And on top of everything else, what puts our country at risk? The fact that the government has taken away the guns of people in a certain area. Who is going to save the day? The good ol' Southern boys who still have guns.

The one positive thing I can say is that while the famous excerpt about the "pouting sex kitten" turning into "Diana the huntress" is still here--and indeed is the prologue to the book--the rest of the book is not in that style. (And a good thing it is, too, since that style is very un-1940s: it is very jarring to read a historical novel in too modern a style.) In fact, the whole "subplot" of that prologue is somewhat unnecessary, at least in this volume, and appears only once more, and then briefly, making the whole thing appear like a crash publicity stunt to gain attention for the book.

For me, the appeal of alternate history is to see what sort of world, what sort of society, might develop if something were different. As I noted, though, we see next to nothing of the world--almost the entire book is spent in government offices, on military bases, or in battles. There's no description of how life is different in the United States, no description of how life is different in Germany, and next to nothing about the result of the quick war in the Pacific. In short, there's nothing that I can recommend here.

To order 1945 from amazon.com, click here.


PEARL HARBOR: A NOVEL OF DECEMBER 8TH by Newt Gingrich & William R. Forstchen:

[From "This Week's Reading", MT VOID, 01/18/2008]

I slogged my way through PEARL HARBOR: A NOVEL OF DECEMBER 8TH by Newt Gingrich and William R. Forstchen (ISBN-13 978-0-312-36350-5, ISBN-10 0-312-36350-8), only to discover that it ends with a different version of Pearl Harbor. At this point I read through the long description on the book flaps to discover that this "inaugurates a dramatic new Pacific War series." I am sick of multi-book series, and sick to death of multi-book series that do not announce on the front cover of the books that they are just part of a larger work. Shame on Gingrich, Forstchen, St. Martin's Press, and anyone else responsible for this deceptive marketing.

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