Monday, January 11, 2010

The Rivers of War

Time: 1815
Place: New Orleans
Background: The War of 1812

This novel by Eric Flint is an alternate history. This means that this story changes one event from the actual and then imagines the consequences of that change.

Alternate histories are generally lumped as a section of science fiction. The best of them share the rule that the science/history in the story should be as accurate as possible. Events in the story should unfold according to the principles of the pertinent academic disciplines. Nothing in the story must be implausible.

This means to me that a good alternate history story is better lumped with historical fiction than science fiction. This novel is one such book.

The book's departure point is the Battle of Horse Shoe Bend between the US Army under Andrew Jackson and the Creek Indians. In the story, Sam Houston slips on top of the Creek's ramparts, so instead of being shot as actually did happen, he is only grazed.

With this departure point, he is able to participate in the fighting in the Washington, D.C. area later this year and in the Battle of New Orleans in January, 1815 instead of sidlined recuperating from his wounds.

The author has another agenda. In his imaginings, while trying to follow plausible outcomes, he aims to give the southern Indians an eventual, viable nation of their own. In order to do this, he gives them every lucky break, and endows their leaders with better decision-making then their leaders actually made.

This is an interesting speculation. What if the Indians had migrated west immediately after the War of 1812 and with a thought to setting up an independent nation that can stand the test of time?

Eric Flint's next book in the series is 1824 The Arkansas War which I'm reading now.