A historical fantasy starring a visitor from the 22nd century and Abraham Lincoln.
On a crowded train in 1849, a most anachronistic meeting takes place between the future 16th president of the United States and a curious looking man from Baltimore circa 2163 A.D.; Edwin Blair offers Lincoln a cash gift, makes an appointment with the future commander in chief for 14 years later and, in a flash, transports himself to 1863 Washington where he marches to the White House and calls in his favor. Blair hails from an apocalyptic future brought about by an alien invasion and his mission is to convince Lincoln and a select few members of his cabinet to use the inevitable confrontation at Gettysburg as cover for annihilating this race of extraterrestrials before they grow too strong. Why not pick a time with nuclear warheads instead of Griffen guns, and supercarriers instead of ironclads? Because that wouldn’t be any fun. More technically, Blair explains that if you assault the alien vessels with modern weaponry, they explode and the radius of devastation stretches for miles. But, really, it’s a happily contrived excuse for a witty, ludicrous, knowing and engaging science-fiction/historical novel. There’s something deliciously self-conscious in Pielke’s thoughtfully rendered character study of the Great Emancipator being weaved into the broader scenes of a 22nd-century historian holding forth on time travel and aliens while attempting to convince Lincoln, and by extension the reader, of the novel’s tongue-in-cheek premise. In the prose and loving period detail, the novel has charm in abundance. The smells of 19th-century America are a surprising and convincing detail as Blair plods along the streets and fields of ancient America, and he is constantly attempting to adjust his lexical choices to the period, with amusingly overwrought results. Pielke manages all this with great admiration for the period and its language. But Civil War buffs beware—it’s all in good fun and it’s only possible to be so deferential when aliens are tossed onto such hallowed historical ground.
An exciting, enticing first entry in a planned series.