Fosfax, Issue 205, Part 1, Page 55


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Fosfax, Issue 205, Part 1, Page 55


Science Fiction


Fifty- Fifth page of Fosfax, Issue 205, Part One: A review of Alternate history Cont. And book reviews


Timothy Lane, Joseph T Major


Fosfax, Issue 205, Part 1, July 2002




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good troops, but you have to wonder. Stuart and Ewell would only have about 30,000 men against nearly three times their numbers, and most of their troops would still have single-shot muzzle-loaders. It’s certainly true that they could delay Meade, and make him pay a price; but they couldn’t stop him completely. Still, there would be time for Hill and Longstreet to take Washington, grab the supplies, and set up their own defensive positions — if they acted damned promptly. That was often easier said than done.
"Born in Blood" by Denise Little features a different change. The battle, and war, go about as they actually did. However, the view¬point character, whose modestly heroic combat role in Buford’s caval¬ry (who actually did not, contrary to a popular belief, use repeating carbines at Gettysburg, though Custer did) merits a place on Grant's staff during the war (and afterward). It turns out that "he" is really a "she" (as occasionally has happened), though she still has to keep her secret from everyone else — and she has used her position to gain the right to vote for women. (It is true that Susan B. Anthony supported Grant in 1872, for what her opinion may have been worth to a wholly male electorate, because he gave at least lip service to the suffragettes — more than the Democrats or Liberal Republicans did.)
Finally, Kristine Kathryn Rusch in "Well-Chosen Words" changes the aftermath of the battle (Meade attacks Lee before he can cross the Potomac and forces his surrender), and then has Lincoln assassinated (by irreconcilable Confederates) as he is about to speak at Gettysburg. So the town will not be known for the battle, or his speech, but as the site of an assassination.
As I mentioned, there are three historical articles. "The Battle of Gettysburg: An Overview" by Steve Winter gives a modest account of the events of the battle. I don't exactly agree with all of it, but that simply represents a matter of which histories you rely on. He seems to rely on Livermore's estimate of casualties (Winter gives them as a third of approximately 160,000 men); by contrast, Busey’s more up- to-date computation is 22,807 for Meade and 22,557 for Lee (though with some additional losses for the latter in the brigades of Wofford, Steuart, and Davis), excluding some minor related actions not part of the actual battle.
Next is "Gettysburg and the Politics of War" by William Terdosla- vich, which looks at how politics affected the armies, and especially how the battle affected the politics of both nations. Paul Thomsen has a similar focus, but at a lower level, in "Union and Confederate So¬cial Convictions Surrounding the Battle of Gettysburg". Unlike some of the contributors, he considers the battle decisive in that neither side could win the war after losing.
Review by Joseph T Major of Wilbur Cross’s
(The Lyons Press; 2000; ISBN 1-58574-049-7; $24.95)
[Revised edition of Ghost Ship of the Pole, 1960]
Mikheil Kalatozhvili’s "The Red Tent" (1971) has nothing to do with The Red Tent by Anita Diamant (1999). Dinah bas Yaakov would find il generale and the rest of the crew of the Italia, in the year 1928 poor company (not to mention cold comfort).
Since it seems possible that both Admirals Peary and Byrd told a few stretchers about their trips north, it could be that the same man led both the expeditions that first achieved the poles. Roald Amund¬sen had bad things to say about Johansen after the South Polar expedi¬tion, and he really reamed out the man who built his semi-rigid air¬ship Norge, provided the crew, and piloted it: Umberto Nobile,
Regia Aeronautica officer, airship designer, and (it seems) profes¬sional scapegoat.
Therefore, in spite of his recognition by the rest of the world, including a gold medal voted by the U.S. Congress (along with medals to Amundsen and Lincoln Ellsworth, financier of the expedi¬tion), and particularly in spite of the recognition by his own govern¬ment, Nobile decided to do it again. Tragically, his new airship the Italia crashed — and this is the agonizing story of the rescue.
Blamed for the confusion of the supporting organization, the thoroughgoing muddle of the rescue missions (plural; four different nations sent airplanes to search for the crew of the Italia, and none of the groups coordinated with any other), the horrific suffering of the two survivors of the three men who tried to march to land (and the one who died), and the order of the rescue, Nobile became rather withdrawn, understandably. Oh yes, and the death of Amundsen, who disappeared on a search mission, was his fault too, and that the French government had given him a lousy airplane was irrelevant.
Cross began his research for this book in the fifties, and more than twenty-five years after the dreadful events of the story, all the sur¬vivors of the Italia were still alive! Though it seems most of their rescuers had not been so fortunate. Natural hazards (such as being unmasked as a Trotskyite-Bukharinite opportunist-deviationist in the pay of foreign intelligence services, confessing one’s crimes, and being shot — the remaining survivors were rescued by a Soviet ice¬breaker) took many of them.
This book, therefore, as well as its earlier version Ghost Ship of the Pole, can be considered an apologia for General Nobile, who was dogged by politics though himself apolitical. Which made him a perfect scapegoat for the Fascist government. On the other hand, later on he taught aeronautics in New Jersey during the war. Cross presents a leader who found himself painfully capable of being used and manipulated, an organizer at sea in a political ocean.
Cross also describes the desperate makeshifts the survivors of the Italia went to on the ice. (The so-called "Red Tent" was dyed using marker dye, for example.) Their worst suffering, though, was the careless indifference the rescuers displayed, whether it was their base ship not bothering to listen for their desperate messages or the first rescuer who did find them. On his first trip he evacuated Nobile. On his second trip he crashed his plane. His associate found them, rescued the pilot, and informed the survivors that he wouldn't be making any more flights because it was too dangerous.
Later opinion has found Nobile to be far more sinned against than sinning, and he lived long and prospered, as well as an apolitical man could prosper in a ferociously political world. Long enough to see Peter Finch play him in "The Red Tent" — and seven years longer!
Disaster at the Pole is a painful story of daring and good inten¬tions gone hideously wrong.


THE CURSE OF CHALION by Lois McMaster Bujold (Eos)
Review by Timothy Lane
Judging from the author's comments at Millennium Philcon, this is based on medieval Spanish history. That being the case, one can easi¬ly think up some possible historical analogs to the situation presented in the book. On the other hand, medieval Spain is such a rich source that there are plenty of analogs to choose from.
This being a fantasy, the title is literal: the Kingdom of Chalion suffers from an actual (psychic) curse, visible to those with the talent to see. The protagonist, Cazaril, suffers from his own curse, a very familiar one even in our own world: he’s an old soldier who suffers from his many injuries (and the betrayal by others that led to them). All he wants is a modest little job, so that he can survive (you know, I can really relate to that right now). He finds one, as tutor to royesse Iselle; unfortunately, it inevitably throws him into contact with his be¬trayers, who would like to finish off the job.
Then, too, the Curse seems to affect people by increasingly cor-rupting them, turning them ever more thoroughly to evil, ever more venal and brutal, out for their own power and greed to the exclusion of the interests of Chalion itself. (Even worse than the Clinton White House, if you can believe it. You can do that in fiction.) This is not a desirable quality in one’s rulers, though all too common in the long history of government.
Naturally, Cazaril finds himself acting as far more than merely a tutor, as he tries to rescue Chalion — or, at minimum, Iselle — from the Curse. This is what drives the main plot.
The Curse of Chalion is different from most of Bujold’s novels. I found it less compelling a read; in my opinion the reason is the rela¬tive lack of the abundant humor usually present in her work. It's easy to see why she would do this writing about such a dark situation; but it did affect my enjoyment. (I recall no such problem with The Spirit Ring, be it noted.) Still, if this isn't quite as good as her other works,
?t'c ^ <Jonr1 nevertheless

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