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Settling Accounts: In at the Death by Harry Turtledove

Del Rey Books

Reviewed by Leigh Kimmel

Harry Turtledove's alternate history of a world in which the South won the Civil War comes to its thunderous conclusion, with the North American continent torn apart by an analog of World War II that sees African Americans herded into death camps in Texas while the United States government battles with resentful Mormons and conquered Canadians.

Confederate President Jake Featherstone continues his bombastic oratory even as his armies steadily fall backward under the relentless onslaught of US forces. But he has a secret weapon, and when he discovers he has no bomber big enough to deliver it, he uses an even more frighteningly effective way -- he orders his Yankee-accented intelligence chief, Clarence Potter, to drive it to Philadelphia in a truck.

That weapon is of course the atomic bomb, and the sheer completeness of the destruction it wreaks upon the interim capital of the United States gives the nation pause. But it is not a knockout blow, and the United States has been working on its own nuclear project as well, a much better funded one that has the resources to deliver not one but several such blows.

Not to mention that an attack that is perceived as cowardly can actually serve to stiffen the resolve of one's opponents. A United States disgusted at the undeniable evidence of Featherstone's crimes against humanity and fed up with having to fight the Confederates every generation is coming to the conclusion that the only way to put an end to the cycle of war is to undo the War of Succession and return the Confederate States to the Union. But after so many generations, can the rift truly be healed, or only suppressed by the force of arms?

It would appear that the series has reached its final conclusion, given that the novel ends with what appears to be the final defeat of the Confederacy. However, it's still possible that the efforts to re-integrate the former Confederate states into the Union will prove far harder than Reconstruction in our own timeline. And given the horrors committed by that Confederacy, it is unlikely in the extreme that the Yankees will become tired of the effort as they did in our timeline and prematurely declare their work done. So it's quite possible that Turtledove may yet come out with another series or two set in this universe.

Review posed December 14, 2008

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