In an alternative history sequel, King and Bredehoft (Democracy’s Missing Arsenal, 2013) chart the solidification of a Great Power Alliance and envision a subtly different 1914-18 war.
In the authors’ convincing semifictional world, everything stems from a single “point of divergence”: the Confederacy won the Civil War. Key consequences include earlier division into coalitions—France, America, and Russia versus Germany, England, and the Confederacy (the United States is no longer united)—accelerated advances in military technology, and a reversal of the global trend toward abolition. Their version of WWI takes place in 1898, with a “Second Alliance War” spanning 1914 to 1918. However, the historical facts stay the same: Archduke Franz Ferdinand’s assassination sparks the conflict. Sites of clashes in the first book recur here: Canada’s English-speaking west and French-speaking east remain at odds, while Ireland’s Easter 1916 Uprising diverts British attention. Meanwhile, South America becomes a hot spot, with belligerent nations forming unexpected associations and the USA invading Chile—a prime exporter of nitrates needed for explosives. Compared to the previous volume, this is less of a historical sweep; its meticulous level of detail can be wearisome. On the other hand, the narrower time period allows for comprehensive accounts of naval battles and bombing regimes. The aftermath of Paris’ bombardment is particularly vivid: “refugees packed the Jardin des Tuileries, the smoke from their cooking rising to mingle with the denser smoke from a score of fires.” Made-up headlines and fragments of speeches and letters mimic an authentic history text, while the occasional relaxation of the narrator’s language—starting sentences with “But,” rhetorical questions, the conditional mood, and striking turns of phrase (“Nicholas II, willing to swallow virtually any anti-Jewish canard”)—keeps this from being a mere recitation of events. Those intimately familiar with World War I–era history should spot subtler differences. An overall highlight is FDR’s modified first meeting with Churchill in 1918: their instant rapport as naval personnel helps resolve Anglo-American issues. The book ends with Germany and Austria-Hungary inaugurating a new serfdom for Slavs, a chilling prophecy of continued worldwide slavery.
Stay tuned for the third installment: a treatment of WWII (here the “Third Alliance War”).