Alternative history speculative fiction about a victory for The South in The American Civil War.
BOOK REVIEW WARD MOORE BRING THE JUBILEE 1953 Gollancz Orion Press
The 42nd book in the Gollancz Science Fiction Masterworks series is a widely respected alternative history / time travel story, dealing with the South’s victory in the American Civil War.
This bppk’s addition to the brilliant series seems rather an odd choice as it has some quite dated and lame sections after its stunning opening premise. The book really deals with three episodes in the life of the narrator, Hodge Backmaker, and how he ultimately influences history.
In the 1930’s Hodge is a farm hand in a poverty stricken Steinbeckian community, and an admirer of the long-since defeated Confederate forces. He leaves home to seek an education in New York, and on his journey, he witnesses a great deal of the squalor and racism brought about by the South’s victory. There are only 26 states in the US. New York has a stunted growth. The tallest buildings are just ten storeys high. As with many alternative histories, balloons and airships are everywhere. A rickety bouncing kind of car is being introduced. Slavery has not been abolished.
Hodge witnesses the pursuit of a young runaway slave. He feels sorry for the man, but does nothing to intervene or help prevent the pursuit. He feels as if he has been a coward in this.
Mugged for his money, Hodge feels as if his educational dreams are over, but he gains the confidence of an antiquarian bookshop owner and works in his store, as a delivery boy and stock taker. This gives Hodge a detached chance to become self-educated.
There is a catch however. The shop is a front for an underground army, illegal but tolerated by the South’s government, a Ku Klux Klan-like body who terrorize the Negro population, and also floods Europe with counterfeit money.
The shop owner defines Hodge as an observer. The theories of Carl Jung who divides people into observers and men of action, influence this premise. Hodge seems to bear the theory out by not intervening in the Army’s intrigues and turning a blind eye to its violence. Matters reach a head when the army targets a friend of Hodge’s a black Haitian ambassador, who has been until now afforded some independence and protection for his investments in the US economy. The gentle, wise man, a regular customer at the book-shop, has been a friend to Hodge and counter’s the bookshop owner’s theories with assurances that Hodge is capable of changing destiny.