What if the South Had Won the Civil War?The landmark alternate history novel by "one of the best American writers" (Ray Bradbury). In the world of this novel, said to be an inspiration for Philip K. Dick's The Man in the High Castle, the Confederacy has triumphed and become an imperialist nation. What is left of the United States has been drained of its resources and is trapped in a depression. Hodge, a young man living in a village in rural New York with his parents, decides to head to the city to escape his otherwise inevitable future of poverty and indentured servitude. But the specter of war between the Confederacy and the other great global power, the German Union, haunts the entire region, and a nationalist terrorist group has other plans for Hodge. Before long, he is swept up in the politics of the day and becomes involved with a beautiful physicist who is working on a machine intended to change his fate--and the fate of the world. Long before Harry Turtledove's The Guns of the South, Bring the Jubilee was the first novel to pose the question "What if the South had won the Civil War?" A counterfactual classic, it was included in renowned science fiction editor David Pringle's list of the 100 Best Science Fiction Novels. This ebook features an illustrated biography of Ward Moore including rare images from the author's estate.
“Although I am writing this in the year 1877, I was not born until 1921. Neither the dates nor the tenses are error - let me explain:”
So Hodgins Backmaker starts the account of his extraordinary life. During his adolescence he lives in a small rural community in the United States - United States with just 13 member states because the Union lost the American Civil war. The Confederacy agreed to the union keeping much of its territory but extracted a huge indemnity that beggared the Union for the foreseeable future. This has not only resulted in the United States becoming a third world country, but also hindered the development of science and engineering on a world wide scale. There are still no aeroplanes and no electricity and many of its citizens are indentured to international companies, there are repatriation schemes for the black population and the country suffers not only from poverty, but also from mean spiritedness. Hodgins must find his own way in a difficult world and at 17 years old starts his four day walk to New York.
The story continues with a lucky encounter in the big city and he gets a position working in a book store. He is fascinated by books and wants to learn and so agrees to work for bed and board for a little pocket money and free access to the books. The book store is also a front for the rebel Grand Army and Hodgins faces a steep learning curve involving his education, life in the city, romance and steering clear of trouble. His studying leads to a dream of an academic life, he wants to be a historian, but there are no worthwhile academic centres in the Union, however he manages to become involved in a self supporting academic community who live out in the countryside, where he continues his education and becomes a leading historian specialising in the American Civil war.
Ward Moore writes well and easily, his characters are particularly well drawn and the novel for much of its length is a very good bildungsroman. It switches smoothly between its story telling to being a novel of ideas and a tableau of an alternative world. The world building itself is not attempted in any detail, but just enough to create a fascinating backdrop for the story. This is not anything like a typical male oriented 1950’s science fiction, it has an egalitarian undertow that sets it apart from much science fiction and probably much popular writing of that era.
It builds to a good climax and I was interested enough to do a bit of research on the battle of Gettysburg before the final denouement. Of course any member of the reading community would guess the ending, but it might have been different in 1952 when this book was published. No matter there is plenty enough in this novel even for non science fiction readers to enjoy. A bit of a gem this one and so 4 stars.
Never mind, the book is good enough to own two of just for the pleasure of lending it out or giving it away to someone who will appreciate it - in my case, my father: Bring the Jubilee [I don't understand the title] was one of the first Alternate History books. Written in the 1950s before authors started taking liberties with real historical characters, it tells the story of a United States beaten by the 'Southron' States in the 'Southron War of Independence'.
The North is financially crippled; most people indenture themselves and battle all their lives just to keep going. The infrastructure is run down or non-existent, the Ivy League universities mere bush colleges, and the population miserable: son of a blacksmith, Hodge Backmaker considers himself a huge disappointment to his parents because he is exceedingly unhandy and cannot help with the tasks. His only interest is in learning and at 17 he runs away to New York, certain his cold parents will be glad to see the back of him.
The industrial revolution has not occured so there are no aeroplanes or telephones or electric lights and although some form of motorcar does it exist, they are few and far between, and limited to the areas where there are good roads. Hodge is apprenticed by an erudite printer and spends several years reading everything he can get his hands on before writing off to the remaining univiersities asking for a scholarship.
His request is met by an offer from an intellectual community of scholars and Hodge is delighted to start to use his brain seriously for the first time in pursuit of his ambition to be an historian. His field of study is the Civil War and before long he has published a book to great acclaim. The second volume though is causing him misgivings and he jumps at the chance to take a trip in a time machine a college has invented so he can go back and witness the problematic Battle of Gettysburg in person, and ensure his history is accurate.
The results of his expedition are not exactly unexpected as he changed the course of history by an ill-advised action and so finds himself trapped forever in an 'alternate'past, one in which the North won, and his family and friends never existed. An excellent read.
I can't forget the heartbreaking end; a better world is created at an unimaginable cost.
This is an alternate history and a time travel story. The time travel doesn't happen until near the very end of the book. Almost the entire story takes place in the 1930's and 1940's of an alternate timeline up until 1952, the year the original story was published. A lot of setup here we have to take for granted. We aren't told and can't really see why the southern states became a world power. They abolished slavery (making negroes and all other non-whites subjects and non-citizens). We are told bits of why the north decayed but still, one just has to accept that the north lost and collapsed and the south rose and prospered. Moore works under the assumption that the loser of a war is doomed I think - The South goes on to conquer Mexico and then South America. History was very different in Europe as well.
The main part of our story begins in the 1930's with a young man, our protaganist Hodge, leaving home at 17 and journeying to New York 4 days walk away (about 80 miles). He has dreams of being a scholar and attending college. After some years in New York, Hodge manages to find a haven in the dreary world, in Pennsylvania, where he lives and loves and slowly becomes a well regarded Civil War historian. So we have a coming of age tale. I thought the book dragged a bit in several parts of the middle but the last quarter and endgame of the novel was very good and rewards the journey to it. This book really seems to stand up near the higher end of science fiction novels of the 50's, certainly in the quality of the writing. The book has aged fairly well, and one can see many parallels between then and now.
Young Hodge Backmaker, restless in back-end-of-nowhere Wappinger Falls, sets off to New York to seek his fortune. There he soon falls in with and is employed by the bookseller Tyss, seemingly an enlightened man but in fact doing much covert work to support the violently terrorist Grand Army, which seeks to . . . well, as with many Liberation Fronts, the aims of the Grand Army are not entirely clear. Hodge keeps his nose clean of this clandestine activity as much as he can during his eight years with Tyss, during which he devours practically every book in the shop and decides his vocation in life is to be a historian; his ambitions are focused by his friendship with the Haitian ambassador, Enfandin, a man of enormous intellectual ability, knowledge and sagacity who's nonetheless sneered at as Sambo and Rastus by most of New York's populace: the people of the Confederate States are beginning to move out from under the shadow of racism but those of the US, blaming the slaves for having caused the ruinous war, are still in the full throes of the racist atavism. Hodge fires off application letters to all the universities he can think of, hoping for a place to read history; but the only response he gets is from Haggershaven, a strange, utopian community of scholars. He is summoned there by Barbara Haggerwells, daughter of the man who runs the place. She proves to be quite seriously psychologically damaged, yet a brilliant physicist; once at Haggershaven Hodge enters into a semi-destructive, almost masochistic off-on relationship with her that will last for years. But, while traveling to Haggershaven, Hodge rescued from a murderous gang a young Spanish girl, Catalina, and as she grows up she captures his heart -- a development disliked by the paranoidly jealous Barbara.
Barbara succeeds in building a functioning time machine. Various Haggershavenians take trips into the past, always obeying as near as possible Barbara's strict instructions that they should do nothing to change things in the world of the past. When it comes to Hodge's turn, he chooses to go back to witness the Battle of Gettysburg to determine at first hand if the historians are right about the precise wrinkle of chance that won the battle -- and the war -- for the Southrons. As Barbara throws the lever:
The expression on her face was the strangest I'd ever seen her wear. I could not, then or now, quite interpret it. Doubt, malice, suffering, vindictiveness, entreaty, love, were all there as her hand moved the switch. (p173)
Needless to say, Hodge inadvertently alters the course of the battle and brings into existence the timeline we know. And, in a delicious irony, it seems not to occur to him -- despite the sentence cited above -- that Barbara knew all along something like this would happen, and that she was in effect murdering her world, herself included, as vengeance against the man she perceived to have spurned her.
The bulk of this novel concerns Hodge's life in the world into which he was born; by the time he makes the trip back to Gettysburg we're just twenty pages or so from the end. I've seen people complain about this: that the book's boring because nothing much happens until the last few pages. All I can really say is that such critics should hang up their spectacles and go do something else more commensurate with their talents, like listening to Britney Spears. Although he has an annoying tic of missing out apostrophes from some but not all contracted words (with no rhyme or reason that I can see: it's "can't" but "couldnt", for example), and although I could have done without the various cutesy references to major figures in our own timeline having minor roles in the alternative US, Moore is a fine enough writer that he makes Hodge's tale an absolutely absorbing one . . . to the point that I was actually pretty fed up when the time-travel stuff started: I could have gone on reading about Hodge, Catalina and Haggershaven for a long while yet. This is one of those rare and precious books that really does transcend genres. I'd feel happy recommending it to people who'd normally shy away from a piece of sf; at the same time, devoted skiffers who've not read this classic should definitely make the effort -- if only because this must be among the three or four best-written novels of sf's (late) Golden Age.
I loved watching the different characters' development. Hodge, especiallly, learns & matures as we watch him grow from a callow youth to a somewhat wiser young man who knows that he doesn't have any answers and can't make any judgements.
The time travel bit is brief but important - in a way one can say that the whole front of the book built towards the theme that was revealed to Hodge (and to us) by his travel in time.
A bit of an understanding of the course of the American Civil War would be helpful, but is not necessary. It may help one understand the title - I do not know what it meant by 'Bring the Jubilee' - but again, the book can be thoroughly enjoyed without that understanding.
Ward Moore's "Bring the Jubilee" tells the story of an introverted man's search for a meaningful life in a gaslit, steam-powered, 3rd-World United States.
This book is an expanded version of a short story published in 1952, and that detail is apparent. You can see the padding necessary to make it novel-length; the plot drags in places, and the story meanders toward its conclusion through slow side-plots. Some of the extraneous supporting cast are actually quite interesting, specifically the protagonist's romantic partners. They're dramatically different from one another in ambitions and behaviors. Honestly, each of them has more distinct personality than the protagonist, and his actions are almost exclusively reactions to them and their actions.
One last note; A moderate familiarity with the events and notable generals of the Civil War, its aftermath, and late 1800s US history would greatly enhance a reader's enjoyment of this book.
Original publication date
Omslaget viser en mand ved en stor maskine, en kvinde og i et syn ovenover dem en række soldater i kamp i den amerikanske borgerkrig
Indskannet omslag - N650U - 150 dpi
Planetbog, bind 2
Oversat fra engelsk "Bring the Jubilee" af Knud Müller
Omslaget er taget fra et italiensk Urania hæfte, nr 141, "Anniversario Fatala", dvs den italienske udgave
Der er en signatur på originalforsiden "Caesar" og Kurt Caesar (1906-1974) er en kendt illustrator af italienske og tyske science fiction magasiner. Den danske udgave har skåret tegningen, så man ikke kan se signaturen og tegneren er heller ikke krediteret i kolofonen.