A disappointing chronicle of the beginnings (1770–76) of the American Revolutionary War: the fourth blockbuster historical in only five years from the hard-working author of Gods and Generals (1996), The Last Full Measure (1998), and Gone for Soldiers (2000).
There’s considerable evidence that Shaara (who began his career by completing the Civil War trilogy initiated by his late father Michael’s The Killer Angels) may be burning himself out. The lengthy prologue here, for example, is marred by astonishing verbal inaccuracies (such as the misuse of “flare” for “flair”) and ungrammatical sentences—the kinds of errors that crop up intermittently thereafter. More damaging are Shaara’s by-the-numbers summaries of all the relevant major events: the Boston Massacre and Tea Party, meetings of the first two Continental Congresses, Paul Revere’s ride, the battles of Lexington and Bunker (actually Breed’s) Hill, George Washington’s military command, the publication of Thomas Paine’s pugnacious manifesto Common Sense, and Congress’s approval of Thomas Jefferson’s Declaration of Independence. All these are narrated as they’re experienced and/or discussed by the primary characters: Benjamin Franklin, John Adams, British General Thomas Gage—and, to a lesser extent, universally despised colonial governor (of Massachusetts) Thomas Hutchinson. With the single exception of Franklin (whose unusual personality, compounded of unpretentious sagacity and epicurean sensuality, is nicely captured), they’re all so burdened by the task of providing the reader with huge dollops of sedulously digested information that Shaara neglects to give them any individual reality. Rise to Rebellion is by no means disgraceful; it’s simply dull—especially when compared with such vividly interesting fictional treatments of our early history as almost any of Kenneth Roberts’s novels.
The first of two volumes. One hopes Shaara will take more time with its successor, and produce a novel that compares more favorably with the best of its predecessors.