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January 2003
2003 Ernest Lilley / SFRevu
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Stars and Stripes Triumphant by Harry Harrison
Del Rey Hardcover: ISBN: 034540937X PubDate Jan 03
Review by Ernest Lilley
240 pages  List price $24.95  
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There are two good times enter a series, at its beginning or its end. If you been along for the the Stars and Stripes Forever and TSAS in Peril, I doubt that you need any urging to read its conclusion - The Star and Stripes Triumphant. If you read only one volume though..this would be it.

The Stars and Stripes:
Stars and Stripes Forever (SFRevu Nov 98) - "1861-1862, in the early years of the U.S. Civil War. It's based on a historical incident know as the Trent Affair, where a British ship carrying mail and two Confederate envoys was seized by the United States Navy In this alternate history, the event re-unifies the US and plunges it into war with England.
Stars and Stripes In Peril - Three years after the resolution of the Civil War, the British are coming again...this time through Texas. Lincoln sends Grant to Ireland to give them the specter of a two front war.
and now...Stars and Stripes Triumphant.

In the Alt Hist. Universe of TSAS, Britain got its nose bent out of joint on the eve the American Civil War, and had invaded our shores, uniting the country in common cause. After repelling the Crown from our soil once again, we were then instrumental in liberating Ireland...which brings you up to date for the current book.

The story opens in Brussels in the summer o f1865, coincidental with our universes end of the civil war. Lincoln, along with his trusted generals,; Sherman and Grand are there to negotiate trade agreements with Europe but Britain will have none of it, storming out of the conference. Soon British Ironclad Man-o-Wars are seizing American frigates laden with cotton bound fro Europe - a finer grade than Britain's own Indian cotton and so a double threat to her Majesty's economy.

Though Ireland may be free, Britain cannot let go its grudges and has taken to interring the Irish within its borders in concentration camps. All-in in all, it's a powder key which will not long stay contained.

While Lincoln heads back to the States, Sherman and Gustaveous Fox take a cruise with a Russian Count. It's an idyllic affair complete with caviar and champagne and espionage, for they are off to map Britain's costal defenses and Russia seeks to be on the winning side in the coming conflict...and to ensure which side wins.

Of course, and fairly quickly, it does come to war, and a new kind of war for this world - a war of highly mobile guns, armor clad ships, and rapid advances, a "lightning war". Among the radical innovations introduces is the mobile Gatling gun, complete with an newly invented internal combustion engine driving an armored wagon. Thus we take the fight to the Brits in an engine of war they dub the "tank".

Author Harry Harrison has moved the timetable for modern warfare up by half a century and it's as engaging a show as any galactic conflict. The Stars and Stripes Triumphant doesn't have a lot of character driven story, just fiction facts, driving the story onward as the author tosses his dice over the game board. Regardless, it's a fun read and a quick one a just under 230 pages.

Reading about this conflict leaves me feeling more than a little guilty for enjoying an attack on the monarchy of England, and more so for a book that leaves America teetering on the edge of imperialism as our current reality echoes these events. What I think the author fails to realize in his storytelling, and many in our world, is that we American's are fundamentally isolationist in nature, and it takes the presence of considerable external threat to shake us out of that.

I'm not often drawn in by Alternate History stories of "might have been", having more than enough trouble sorting out the history of the universe I find myself in, but I did enjoy this romp.

sfr3d.gif (19860 bytes) 2002 Ernest Lilley / SFRevu
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