Great War of the Quartet has a very interesting setting. An alternate history detailing a war in the mid 1930s, the author never suggests any clear w Great War of the Quartet has a very interesting setting. An alternate history detailing a war in the mid 1930s, the author never suggests any clear way the world deviated from our own, nor spells out how it is different- although some things are obvious from the start, reading on you hear that Hispaniola is a Swedish crown colony, without any reason why or relevance to the plot. The world is further complicated by localizations of names- The western muslim territory of China, Xinjiang is in this setting Shinkyou, which is apparent only through obscure geographical context and the fact that Shinkyou is a Japanese reading of the same chinese characters that spell out Xinjiang.
This deliberate obtuseness could be construed as a mark against the book, but I found it intriguing and was drawn in to understanding the world the characters lived in. Unfortunately, the setting is the best the book has going for it. The editing is miserable; A bit of research afterwords suggested that Mr. Sangert wrote extremely prodigiously, writing this and its sequels, well over a thousand pages together, in under a year- and it shows. Bad grammar, incorrect word choice that escaped spell-check, and just poor writing abounds. It is unprofessional, and really detracts from the work.
While that could be easily avoided, a more serious problem is its characters- The book has dozens of viewpoints around the world, with none I can think of having any sort of resolution and few any development. These characters have no connection with one another and their actions do not influence each other- any sort of plot is exclusively secondary to using the characters as a vehicle to showcase the world. Also, as a side-effect to having too many characters, the viewpoints are incredibly short, and the time between them can be quite long. Even as the book nears its end, brand new viewpoints are continually being shown, when a more developed core set would have been much nicer.
I quite enjoyed the story of a Kazakh girl in Siberia, but I had to wade through at least six other Asian viewpoints, a few bulgarians, a couple Americans, several Germans, Russians, and an Austrian. Another feature of the writing that could have been interesting but was flawed by its execution was the constant shifting between internal monologues- in any one scene we were given the inner thoughts of most of the principal characters, even shifting between a three year old and her nanny. This is unusual, but it didn't feel like it added much, and it combined with poor writing to complicate comprehension.
There are other problems too, but overall I begrudgingly enjoyed the book for its setting. I wish Mr. Sangert would hold himself to a higher standard with editing for the sequel, but given how quickly it was released, don't hold high hopes....more
In reading this book, I was struck by the enormous similarities between it and Stonewall Goes West, which I had read a short time previously. Both r In reading this book, I was struck by the enormous similarities between it and Stonewall Goes West, which I had read a short time previously. Both revolve around the unlikely and neglected idea of revived Confederate fortunes in the Western front, with reverses against Sherman's army as the November Election of the Union approaches and peace sentiment grows in the North.
One unavoidable aspect of both books was that the voice they give to various historical characters is unavoidably at times discordant with expectations of that person's personality and record. (Particularly, both novels disappoint me in their portrayal of Jefferson Davis.) In Stonewall Goes West, the Bishop-General Polk is portrayed as a scheming and deathly ambitious man, although there is no historical evidence for this whatsoever. In Shattered Nation, it is Braxton Bragg and John Bell Hood's turn to be borderline treasonous, placing revenge on rivals and personal advancement ahead of their nation, up to and including deliberate sabotage of military maneuvers. Braxton Bragg is a very disagreeable character, and Hood a quite flawed one, but neither of these charges really stick. I am not sure why either author felt the Confederacy, with as much external threats as it had, required ahistorical internal intrigue for added dramatic effect, but this is a theme in both works, more pronounced in Shattered Nation than Stonewall Goes West.
Stonewall Goes West aims to be a trilogy, with two novels having been released; however, in their entirety it seems they may come up short of the length Shattered Nation reaches, with Shattered Nation having a postwar sequel seemingly in the works. While Stonewall Goes West's length is fairly tight, leaving the reader wanting more, Shattered Nation drags a bit.
I would be remiss in not mentioning Shattered Nation's boots-on-the-ground Protagonist, McFadden- it can't be escaped that the author is a Texan of Scottish extraction, exactly like his protagonist. Without seeming to have invested as much in the character, Stonewall Goes West's corresponding rank-and-file Confederate is a similar but more believable and effective character, without such dramatic highs and lows of character arc, or overbearing sense of author-avatar invincibility.
Shattered Nation seems very much to want to distance itself from supporting Slavery; everybody who is anybody in the Confederate roll-call, as well as the wording of the seemingly neutral narrative, do everything they can to decry slavery while even introspectively wondering if the South has a moral right to victory for it vile sins. As these are Confederate soldiers, the whole thing is unbecoming and forced. On a related note, Nathan Bedford Forrest is seemingly given up for his presumed sins- the Confederacy the author wants to imagine having no place for his like, or something like that.
Stonewall Goes West does not labor heavily one way or the other on the evils of slavery, although its Yankee characters occasionally do. (Yankee characters would naturally be the more reasonable mouthpiece for any abolitionist sentiments the author feels need to be uttered, but I digress.)
Finally, Stonewall Goes West features the Confederacy's enigmatic genius serving on a new front, and how his energetic leadership might revive that front's flagging fortunes. Even so, he is beset with half-victories and bloody setbacks, and his final victory is by no means clear as of midway through the series. Contrasting with this, Shattered Nation gives the somewhat questionable general Joseph E. Johnston a victory of scale unseen by Confederates in our historical conflict, achieved in a tactical situation that amounts to a frontal attack on an outnumbering force. Militarily, Stonewall Goes West is considerably more believable.
Shattered Nation, despite being considerably longer than Stonewall Goes West, has at least the virtue of less editing errors, and is by no means a bad book- although it irked me at points throughout for the reasons mentioned, in the end I read it as fast as I could and mostly enjoyed myself doing so. It is just unfortunate to have the existence of such a similar and superior rival work. ...more
Stonewall Goes West is a book that takes an interesting premise and clings to it with historical plausibility. It stays within realism without unnece Stonewall Goes West is a book that takes an interesting premise and clings to it with historical plausibility. It stays within realism without unnecessarily mirroring history in a contrived manner. The dialogue is also quite passable, and it makes for a fast, enjoyable read.
Thomas' vocabulary choice is notable, frequently adopting the Shermanism of "high feather", albeit exclusively for describing Sherman or associated cronies. This, with other rare words (it is seldom except in describing Confederate infantry that one ever finds the word tatterdemalion, for instance.), makes for the feeling of a book crafted with care. This impression is only added to with the supplementary maps the author has on his website and encourages us to read in the foreword.
What detracts from this is editing. In the narrative heading, such errors as an incorrect year or falsely listing a CSA brigade as a CSA one caused a bit of confusion until I realized the mistakes. A few obvious mistakes can be found throughout the book, which suggests that whoever edited it did not comb over it as carefully as they could have.
Finally, what must be said is while the book is fairly reverent with its treatment of Lee, Jackson or Sherman, broad strokes and liberties are taken with the personalities of some historical figures. Leonidas Polk in particular makes the jump from being a somewhat petulant, incompetent Bishop-General to a scheming villain of endless ambition, which I found stretched the imagination too seriously.
Other than that, contrivance plays a slightly heavy hand in seeing the generals Thomas wants for command receive their positions; I found the elevation of Cleburne, and its underlying reasons, particularly straining, although I have fondness for the man.
These minor foibles served to drag down the story from something I could be really enthusiastic about to merely enjoyable, but it is still well recommended to anyone with an interest in the subject matter. ...more