Fridge / Timeline-191

Fridge Brilliance:

  • Although some people criticize Nellie Semproch's death from mishandling raw chicken as a seemingly random event, it was extremely common during that time period in Real Life. Food poisoning, and poor food handling practices generally, contributed to a much shorter lifespan for most Americans. However, the Second Great War brought improvements in health and sanitation practices generally, just as World War II did in our timeline. By the end of the war, Cassius Madison is being admonished to clean his mess kit regularly and to wash after meals whenever possible to prevent food poisoning. So rather than writing random events, Turtledove is engaging in a seemingly minor (but actually very significant) act of world-building in the narrative.

  • Anyone who has read the Federalist Papers and the writings of George Washington can see their influence on this book. Specifically, Washington and the other Federalists examine the consequences of the United States being divided into smaller republics. First, the smaller republics, in competition with each other, would require larger armies and higher taxes. Second, the smaller republics would be unable to resist getting entangled into European affairs and would become dependent on the European powers. Third, the smaller republics would be more subject to majoritarian tyrannies and be less free than a united Union.

    All of these things happen in this series. First, the Union and the Confederacy both have larger armies and (presumably) higher taxes. Second, the Europeans exercise more power over both sides. In the Second Mexican War, France and Britain are able to force the South to abolish slavery (at least facially), and they can walk all over the Union with impunity. Additionally, when the Great War starts, both the Union and the Confederacy are drawn into the war immediately, instead of. as IOTL, the U.S. staying out of things before being drawn in due to the Kaiser's stupidity. Third, both sides are less free and vulnerable to majoritarian tyranny. The South is easily taken over by Fetherston and his Freedom Party, while the North is much more structured and regimented than IOTL.

    Clearly, the author has shown his work.

Fridge Logic:

  • In Timeline-191, Henry Halleck is not at all mentioned in spite of directing the US Civil War at the point where it was lost. Granted, perhaps he was too much of a cipher, but he should have been an obvious scapegoat worth mentioning.

  • The United States names a ship after Pocahontas, Arkansas and promotes William Rosecrans to General-in-Chief simply because he was one of the few general who didn't get cashiered since he had the least opportunity to fail, yet Ulysses S. Grant is relegated to a drunken tramp and his victories receive next-to-no mention as far as Remembrance ideology is concerned even though Grant was already a national hero for bagging an entire army and forcing the Confederates to abandon southern Kentucky and western Tennessee (including the crucial industrial hub of Nashville), while Rosecrans was merely Grant's subordinate until more than a month after the series' point of divergence. Moreover, many bedevilments of Grant's reputation trace back to the jealousy of Henry Halleck, who (as noted above) should probably have been discredited for losing the war in this timeline. So why promote a subordinate rather than a victor, and why name a ship after a random town rather than victories that were well on the way to winning the war before being undone by the failures of others?

  • The choice of Special Order 191 as the point of divergence is interesting but upon reflection is rather improbable, since the order merely showed that Lee had placed his army is a precarious position by dispersing it, offering Union forces a chance to defeat Lee in detail which commander George B. McClellan actually immediately squandered by waiting 18 hours, giving Lee time to assemble most of his army for battle. Simply depriving McClellan of this insight might've slowed him down but would've changed little about Lee's precarious position or the odds of his 38,000 exhausted men—the smallest and most ragged his army would ever get until the very end of the war—fending off, nevermind destroying, the 87,000-strong Army of the Potomac and capturing Philadelphia, a feat unparalleled by either side in Real Life except by surrender after a siege.

Fridge Horror:

  • Timeline 191 has had two major world wars and the need to pay for them with a far smaller basis to do so. The second of these wars witnesses multiple nuclear strikes affecting all of the Great Powers involved except Japan.
  • In most European countries affected by the Holocaust, Jews were a distinct minority, not numbering more than 10-15% of the population and usually much less than that. In some Southern states in the timeframe, blacks were a majority of the population and even in states with fewer blacks they made up on average about 20-30%. Not only did Featherston fatally cripple his own war effort by killing off his laboring class, there are wide stretches of the postwar South that will have been completely depopulated. 'Population Reduction' indeed...