Saturday, November 27, 2010
Bring the Jubilee by Ward Moore
One of the best known alternate reality books of all time. The south has won the civil war, the former USA consists of northern states, and is poorly developed country which is exploited by the rich Confederacy and the European empires. The technical development has gone different route – there are no internal combustion engines (that was unlogical and poorly explainable – internat combustion engine was a mainly European invention, and the major invention leading to it were made only a few years after the civil war ended, so it is unlikely that any “ripple effects” of the different outcome of the war would have had any effect), there is no electric illumination and no heavier than air aircrafts. The most state of art technologies are rare steam powered cars owned by the very rich and dirigibles. Racism is norm, especially in northern states. Blacks are “encouraged” to move away, most of the Jews and Orientals have been killed in ethnic cleanings, and some of the survivors have moved to independent Indian territories.
A poor young man from countryside wants to study at university. Unfortunately, he won't be accepted to any, and anyway, the norther universities aren't worth much, there is no funding and even less interest. However, he is invited to a private “school” where intelligent people can study what they want. As the school is self sustained, the duties of most scholars include farm work. He becomes an expert in the history of civil war. At the same time, a bright but unstable female scientist has developed a time machine. The historian has some doubts about a few details of the battle where the victory for the southern states was determined, and he decides to go back in time to see how the battle really was fought. Accidentally he changes the outcome of the battle and creates our reality.
The book is written in a nice old fashionable writing style which is a pleasure to read. The writing style reminded me more than a little Julian Comstock, this year's Hugo award finalist. The book has many ideas, but too few of them were examined in detail, as the main protagonist spent most of the book first working on a bookshop, and later he was living secluded life on a isolated villa/school, and the outside world wasn't really seen at all. In spite of that the book was very fascinating and well worth of reading.