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Wednesday, August 4, 2010

The Two Georges: The Novel of an Alternate America by Richard Dreyfuss and Harry Turtledove

So, what do you get when Oscar Award Winner and a Hugo Award Winner get together?

A pretty good book, actually.

The premise is that the United States was never formed. The British government dealt fairly with the colonies in the 1760s and the independence movement was stillborn. Instead, what are now the USA & Canada is called the North American Union and are an integral part of the United Kingdom. The UK is a vast world-wide empire led by the King-Emperor. This union is symbolized by the painting "The Two Georges" which depicts colonial representative George Washington bowing before King George III before an assembly of British and American dignataries. This moment encapsulates the agreements that kept the American colonies a part of the British Empire. At the beginning of the book the painting is stolen in 1996 by The Sons of Liberty, a North American pro-independence movement. The story follows two detectives and an art curator who are searching for the painting before the ransom deadline.

There were a lot of fascinating things about this book. I thoroughly enjoyed the historical premise and the maps of the world and North America that are at the front of the book. The authors conclude that if there were no USA, there would be few independent countries in Africa, Asia and the Americas, since there was no American example to inspire the dismantling of the vast world-wide European empires. Germany never coalesces since France never spawns a Napoleonic Empire (Napoleon was the first to unite most of Germany - before that it never really ocurred to the Germans that they could create a powerful country if they untied themselves) since there was no French Revolution since there was no American Revolution to inspire it.

American history is different since the UK outlaws slavery in the 1830s - there was no Civil War. The American map has 2 mostly American Indian states - Iroquois and Cherokee, thanks to British restrictions on white incursions over the Appalachians (one of the reasons for rebellion mentioned in the Declaration of Independence).

Technology is far behind that of our world - American creativity is not challenged due to World Wars, Japan is practically a non-entity and Germany is a bunch of warring principalities.

Enjoyable book, decent mystery, good adventure.

I rate this book 4 stars out of 5.

Reviewed in 2004.

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