Reviews: The Two Georges

A decent concept...

... but sadly, not much more. The setting of The Two Georges is pretty intriguing, and the authors certainly go out of their way to explore as many nooks and crannies of this topsy-turvy USA as possible, for which I salute them. But detailed worldbuilding is not a substitute for a compelling story, and that's where this book falls down.

The theft of the titular painting is a strong enough start, but it takes several hundred pages for the investigation to actually pick up steam, by which time the less-patient reader will have probably left for something faster-paced. I'll admit the story comes alive nicely in the last few chapters, but before that - for all the talk of deadline - it feels more like an elaborate excuse to take the reader on a tour of NAU locales and deliver reams of information on how the chain-of-command works (the Canada segment is especially sluggish, Scenery Porn be damned).

As for the characters - they're all rather stock, if inoffensive. The bigger sin here is the dialogue; the setting being one where everybody's British, there's plenty of dry wit to go around, which wouldn't be a problem except for how Turtledove and/or Dreyfuss seem obsessed with explaining every. Single. Punchline. Any form of understatement, and inclination to let the reader figure out subtleties at his own pace? Gone.

In the end, only two things really leapt out - Bushell's grudge against Sir David Clarke, which eventually evolves into something slightly more complex, and Bushell's encounter with his ex at the Russian Embassy, which is painful to read in the good way, not the "this could be sold as insomnia medicine" way. Maybe it's just 'cause I'm a naif who's never read any confront-the-cheater scenes outside of low-quality Revenge Fic, but it certainly impressed me more than the rest of the book.

... hold on, I do recall a third thing: the Pennsylvania sequences. It's only here the setting becomes more than something to passively ooh and ahh at, with the coal-miners' utterly miserable environment laid out for the reader's utter discomfort. It's not quite enough to give the Sons of Liberty actual depth as antagonists (especially when only one significant Son lives in these conditions), but it's still engrossing, and the farthest the book strays from its initial Black and White Morality.

Oh, yes - I probably should mention that this is a very rally-round-the-Crown type of story, which joins patriotism and goodness at the hip. Pretty much anyone who wants North America free of the Crown is painted as a violent racist, if not outright slavery apologist, whereas His Majesty's government is portrayed as nothing but tolerant and evenhanded to non-whites. Britain's rival world-powers get similarly unflattering treatment.

Long story short: unless you've got a lot of time to kill, just take a glance at the Wikipedia article and make up your own story. It'll probably be a lot more fun.