March 2012

Cain at Gettysburg

Author: Ralph Peters

Pages: 432

Release Date: February 28, 2012 – Forge Books

ISBN: 978-0765330475

Much like Shaara’s The Killer Angels, Peters’ Cain at Gettysburg is a fictional account of the battle of Gettysburg. But while there are similarities between the two books, they are definitely not the same. While there are several scenes in Cain at Gettysburg that are very reminiscent of The Killer Angels, utilizing similar dialogue, one can only assume these are actual quotes from the participants that were used by both authors. Shaara’s narrative concentrated on Chamberlain’s 20th Maine and James Longstreet. Longstreet is also central to Peters’ book, but the fight at Little Round Top happens off camera and Chamberlain’s name is never mentioned. George Meade serves to represent the Federals here. Unlike Shaara, Peters spends much time looking at the common soldier, specifically the men of the 26th North Carolina and 26th Wisconsin. The reader sees that Gettysburg was a battle between soldiers as much as between generals. Peters also attempts to resurrect the reputation of Meade, who was the first union general to beat the Army of Northern Virginia, but because of political attacks by Dan Sickles and a relatively early death, he is usually lumped with the earlier commanders of the Army of the Potomac and is criticized for allowing Lee to escape rather than being lauded for beating him in the first place. Peters also attempts to do some justice for the Federal 11th Corps, nicknamed the “Flying Dutchmen” after Chancellorsville. The Corps, made up primarily of German immigrants, was smashed by Jackson’s flank attack and although some of the regiments put up a stout defense, they are remembered for running rather than fighting. There retreat on the first day of Gettysburg seemed to add to their poor reputation, but their fighting retreat allowed the army to establish defensive positions on Cemetery Ridge, without which the entire army would have been forced to retreat.

If the book has a flaw, I believe it is the author continually hitting the reader over the head with the idea that Longstreet knew best. If only Lee had listened to Longstreet’s numerous entreaties to move around the flank, all would have been well. Obviously, this is a fictionalized account and no one knows exactly what conversations transpired between Lee and Longstreet but there is little evidence that Longstreet pressed his point as often as the author has made it appear.


The Company of the Dead

Author: David Kowalski

Pages: 832

Release Date: March 13, 2012 – Titan Books

ISBN: 9780857686684

What if it wasn’t a flying saucer that crashed in the desert in Roswell, New Mexico back in 1947?  What if it was actually a time machine?  That’s the idea behind The Company of the DeadIn 2012, Dr, Jonathan Wells accidentally learns about the time machine while treating a patient at Area 51 and in order to save his life gets transported back to 1911.  Once in 1911 with nothing to do, Wells decides to change history and make the world a better place.  First on the list, save the Titanic, but as we soon discover, that’s easier said then done.  Rather then save the Titanic, Wells merely postpones the inevitable for a few hours.  This small change allows some passengers to live that would have died and causes some to die that would have lived.  And so the butterfly flaps its wings.  If you have any intention of reading this book, I would recommend you stop reading this review as there be spoilers ahead.  Make sure you come back and finish this review once you have read the book, I’ll be waiting.

In 2012 2.0, the world is a vastly different place with Greater Germany and Imperial Japan as the two leading superpowers with the United States divided and partly occupied.  A small group led by Confederate Bureau of Intelligence agent Joseph Kennedy have learned about the time machine and Wells’ changing of history.  They’ve decided they like the original version better and set out to prevent Wells from changing the past.  Here’s where the story gets a little murky.  Apparently there is some type of time loop in which Kennedy continually tries to stop Wells and continually fails in one way or another, this is his last chance.  I found this to be unnecessary and somewhat bothersome; the story gets all mystical for awhile.  One other small issue was the explanation of how the time loop started.  Rather then address the paradox in any meaningful way, it got one or two throw away lines.  Otherwise I found this to be a quite enjoyable book.  At 832 pages it was a bit long and there were some areas that probably could have been trimmed down a bit. This might not be the book to bring on a cruise.

I received this book as an ARC from Titan Books.