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Liberty 1784: The Second War for…
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Liberty 1784: The Second War for Independence

by Robert Conroy

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351488,823 (3.4)1
"A compelling alternate history novel by the breakout author of WW II era alternate history Himmler's War and Rising Sun. The British win the American Revolutionary War, and a desperate Washington and the American founders must make a last stand in an enclave called Liberty. In 1781, George Washington's attempt to trap the British under Cornwallis at Yorktown ends catastrophically when the French fleet is destroyed in the Battle of the Capes. The revolution collapses, and the British begin a bloody reign of terror. A group of rebels flees westward and sets up a colony near what is now Chicago. They call it Liberty. The British, looking to finish what they started, send a very large force under Burgoyne to destroy them. Burgoyne is desperate for redemption and the Americans are equally desperate to survive. Had the Battle of the Capes gone differently, a changed, darker, New World would have been forced into existence. But even under those dire circumstances, Liberty may still find a way! About Robert Conroy's Rising Sun: "Conroy extrapolates a new and militarily plausible direction for WWII. A thrilling adventure."--Booklist About Robert Conroy's Himmler's War: "[Conroy] adds a personal touch to alternate history by describing events through the eyes of fictional characters serving on the front lines. VERDICT: Historical accuracy in the midst of creative speculation makes this piece of alternate history believable."-Library Journal About Red Inferno: 1945 "An ensemble cast of fictional characters. and historical figures powers the meticulously researched story line with diverse accounts of the horrors of war, making this an appealing read for fans of history and alternate history alike."--Publishers Weekly "[E]ngrossing and grimly plausible.the suspense holds up literally to the last page."--Booklist About 1945: " moving and thought-provoking."--Publishers Weekly "Realistic."--Booklist About 1942: ".fans of Tom Clancy and Agent Jack Bauer should find a lot to like here."--Publishers Weekly "A significant writer of alternate history turns here to the popular topic of Pearl Harbor, producing. this rousing historical action tale."--Booklist "A high-explosive what-if, with full-blooded characters."--John Birmingham, bestselling author of Without Warning About 1901: ".cleverly conceived.Conroy tells a solid what-if historical."--Publishers Weekly ". likely to please both military history and alternative history buffs."--Booklist"--… (more)

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Washington’s birthday was coming up. Baen was giving away copies of this book for review. I had been curious about Conroy’s work which I had seen around. However, most of what I had seen was in the very popular vein of alternate World War Twos and American Civil Wars. It was also, to top it off, seemingly from publishers whose product I wasn’t familiar with. (Actually, most of Conroy’s work seems to have been published through Baen. Somehow I conflated him with the much more prolific Peter G. Tsouras.) But, being more interested in alternate America Revolutions than alternate World War Twos, I thought this was a good time to sample Conroy.

Washington’s death is the opening of this book. He’s beheaded at the Tower of London in the Prologue. Conroy doesn’t make you guess where this timeline deviates from ours. His introduction explains that, in this history, the French fleet does not turn back the British fleet in 1781’s Battle of the Capes. General Cornwallis gets his relief. Washington loses the Battle of Yorktown, and the American Revolution seems over. The leaders and officers of the rebellion are imprisoned in Jamaica or, like our hero Will Drake, thrown in a prison hulk to die.

The idea of liberty is not dead though. Out in the west, Fort Washington, near modern day Chicago, is the site of a new locus of rebels. After fortune frees him from imprisonment, Drake, an ex-spy for the American rebels, heads there. So, does Sarah Benton after resisting the attempted sexual extortions of the local sheriff, Braxton. So, does Welshman Owen Wells after deserting the Royal Marines.

And commissioned, by Governor General Charles Cornwallis, to go out west to put an end to this flare up of rebellion, is General Burgoyne, prideful enough to want to redeem his reputation after losing the Battle of Saratoga and smart enough not to repeat his mistakes. With him is our main viewpoint character amongst the British, Burgoyne’s staff officer and distant cousin, Major James Fitzroy.

Along the way we meet several other viewpoint characters, historical and fictional and some for only a chapter, in an all seeing god’s-eye view of things in opposition to the constricted, worm’s-eye view of events we get from alternate history’s main practioneer, Harry Turtledove. Conroy’s keeps things going at a pretty good clip throughout the book. Yes, there are plenty of cases of characters’ paths intersecting, diverging, and reuniting again. But not always in ways you would expect.

Conroy’s alternate history seems plausible in not only some of the weapons and methods the rebels resort to when fighting the British but in an issue seldom talked about in history, academic or alternate: would things really have gone back to normal if the colonials lost their bid for independence? Or would, as they do here, the British have reverted to the same heavy handed policies of taxes and administration that alienated the colonials to begin with? To me, Conroy’s speculation seems well grounded. Of the many historical characters we see, I only know enough about Benjamin Franklin, Benedict Arnold, and General Cornwallis to say they seemed realistic. The British characters come in many shades here from the decent Fitzroy to gentlemanly Burgoyne to villainous Banastre Tarleton (probably most familiar to people through his portrayal as a general killing civilians in the Mel Gibson movie The Patriot and , later in his career, as a politician opposed to abolition in the film Amazing Grace) to the thoroughly evil Braxton who enjoys a campaign of raping, torturing and killing civilian rebels.

And, because Conroy is attempting a serious alternate history instead of one, say, where Queen Victoria was a vampire or a zombie plague struck 16th century London, I’m going to pay him the left-handed compliment of pointing out two areas where I don’t think his historical speculations convinced. 1784 seems far too early for the French Revolution to have broken out and put pressure on the British Crown to wrap the American rebelion up quickly so troops can be sent to reinforce the monarchists of France. And, to a lesser extent, and Conroy gives detailed arguments on this one, I don’t think a constitution under the circumstances of this book would have eliminated slavery.

Still, a worthwhile book in terms of drama and alternate history, and I do look forward to reading more Conroy. ( )
  RandyStafford | Feb 16, 2014 |
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