The Guns of the South, an alternate history novel that takes place through the American Civil War, is one of my favorite novels by Harry Turtledove.
Not just because of the subject at hand, but because of the alternate swing it takes towards American history. Of course, when looking at alternate history there are always cringe moments and horrific sci-fi mixtures that turn a reader like me away from finishing the book, but The Guns of the South kept me interested from page one all the way until the very end.
Published in 1992, the story deals with a group of white supremacist neo-fascist members from a South African political and paramilitary organization known as the “Afrikaner Weerstandsbeweging” who begin supplying Confederate General Robert E. Lee and his troops with AK-47s, one of the better rifles of modern day technology, and medical equipment. The group also supplies the Confederate soldiers with instant coffee and other nutrients in a time where food was low.
Their intervention warps history and the Confederates, now far more advanced than that of the Union, win the war quickly. Those who had once been staring into the eyes of demise are suddenly victorious, despite their own engineers not understanding how the weapons work or how their saviors managed to get there.
Now, placed in this new history that results in political chaos and change throughout the two American nations, things begin to rapidly divert from what had been promised, or alluded to, in the beginning.
Very interesting, very questioning, and overall a fantastic merge of pure fiction and an alternative perspective for what might have taken place had the South gotten a hold of machinery and weaponry more powerful than the Union. There are very few moments that make me question the time period — showing lots of research on the Civil War and the society that functioned within it. But, hardcore historians have to realize that this is a work of fiction — sci-fi time travelling mixed with mind blowing alternate detail.
Besides that? The book is an incredible read. It’s no wonder Harry Turtledove remains the master of alternate history novels.