The Alternate History Novel
- At first it might seem strange that the dystopian future United States would deliberately let criminals prey on its honest citizens, since this looks like a challenge to the government's authority. Actually, this is a tried and true tactic used by many oppressive governments in real life: by selectively enforcing the law and denying effective police protection to its opponents, the regime can in essence lease out political violence to the crime gangs and so keep its own hands clean, and the climate of fear this produces in turn makes the citizenry at large support an intrusive police state. The term anarcho-tyranny was introduced to describe this phenomenon in the 1990s, but the strategy itself is much older, and has been used by dictators at least since the days of the Caesars.
- The pure villainy of the Cultural Marxists, whose only aim is the destruction of culture and civilization as a good in and of itself, appears cartoonishly exaggerated and obviously unrealistic until one realizes that their position is actually philosophically consistent. In a word, they are simply consistent egalitarians, wishing to bring prosperous and successful Western Civilization down to the level of lowest savagery out of a somewhat twisted sense of Rawlsian fairness: if anyone, even a single person, anywhere on the planet grows up in the circumstances of a third-world hellhole, then everyone should do so. As they see it, anyone trying to give his own children a better future is simply being unfair and perpetuating inexcusable injustice by elevating them over the lowest of the low. Civilization makes culture and happiness possible for some, and perhaps even for many or most people, but inevitably, never for everyone, and so civilization itself is a social construction of eternal unfairness and must be ruined at all costs so everyone can be as equally unhappy as possible. Naturally, this is not a very constructive morality, but it makes a certain amount of sense as a disturbing philosophical construct if one accepts the more than dubious premises.
- This would, of course, require them to have essentially read the first page of Rawls philosophy without bothering to read the rest - else, theyd have known that Rawls himself specifically opposed such behavior unless dragging down the fortunate does something to help the situation of the least fortunate. Collapsing the American economy doesnt make anyones life better, it just makes some peoples lives worse. To Rawls, this would appear to be irrational pettiness, not fairness.
- Japan being perhaps the major world economic and military superpower in the 2030s, despite many people today predicting that they will be a declining nation by then (though still powerful) due to low birth rates. It works since this setting explicitly has technology that allows wealthy high-tech economies to maintain GDP and population growth entirely without natural sexual reproduction (see: Azania). Probably, the Japanese used their own slightly less extreme version of Azania-like robotics, AI and mass-scale artificial gestation to re-establish their powerhouse status, and this is how they can compete successfully with less advanced China, Russia and Europe after the United States goes down.
- A lot of the seemingly gratuitous brutality following the collapse, by the Confederation but also that by other factions, is actually a more or less necessary consequence of the tanked economy and living standards. For example, hanging for theft seems harsh in real life, but that's because the United States is a rich country that can afford lots of expensive prisons. When you struggle just to feed your population on home-grown beans and potatoes, ban coffee to save hard currency for essential imports, and try to keep families with children warm through winters without electricity by burning domestic coal and wood, it begins to sound a lot more understandable that the people won't stand for spending millions of tax dollars on keeping a criminal behind bars for many years.
- It makes perfect sense that Azania should be Kraft's most hated and feared enemy, that he needs to destroy or die trying even if it is not an immediate threat. His belief is that all forms of leftism, equalitarianism and tyranny in general eventually fail because they run contrary to human nature; regardless of whether that is true or not, the very point of Azania as a social experiment is explicitly to abolish human nature through advanced technology and create a new, "improved" humanity with different characteristics. If they are successful, his paradigm will not apply to them anymore, and they might actually win in the long run.
- Early on there's an offhand, amusing incident in which a federal judge is tarred and feathered by a mob, and hurled into Boston Harbor. It even makes the newspapers. Except... they used road tar which should be hundreds of degrees to be liquid, not the softer pine tar of colonial days. That sounds pretty much lethal, especially since they followed it up with dumping the old man in the harbor in the dead of winter.
- Granted, the book does say he wasn't badly hurt, so maybe he was just lucky...
- When Rumford and Kraft speak before the Azanian War, Kraft believes Azanian society will inevitably collapse, but after generations. When Rumford asks why they should be the aggressor instead of waiting generations, Kraft says in the meantime their ideology could spread likening it to the French Revolution. It's hard not to read this as an admission that Victoria cannot allow successful alternatives to reactionary Retroculture to exist. Now combine this doctrine with the end, where Victoria has global reach and a superweapon that stops hostile firearms from working...
- Consider the following popular children's song in Victoria, ubiquitous in the Black farming communes. A new generation is being thoroughly indoctrinated into Retroculture.
''Hang him high or hang him low,
To the hangman he will go.
Hang the fat and hang the thin,
Bow his head and stick it in.
Hang the young and hang the old,
Hang the bully and the bold.
- Also the revived one that's (probably erroneously) connected to the Black Death. That connection certainly isn't erroneous, anymore.
Ring around the rosy, pocket full of posies, ashes, ashes, we all fall down...
- For that matter, consider the fate of the children in any of the various dystopian, post-American "enemy" states. In addition to wars, plagues, starvation and everything else, they will all be indoctrinated with one totalitarian ideology or another, from enviro-communism (Cascadia) to the Hitler Jugend (the Landwehr state). Possibly saddest of all in Azania, where all children (approved, at any rate) are cloned, kind of like in Brave New World: they will never have normal families...
- What happens to Transgender people in Victoria? The book never really says (unless they just count them as homosexuals), but given how consistently conservative the Retroculturists who are Victoria's dominant cultural force are on all other social issues, it would seem unlikely that they would be very accepting of them.
- Race relations in the New Confederacy. First the issue is glanced over with Rumford saying that without ideologues race-baiting and telling people they're oppressed victims, everything is fine and always has been in the South. The races don't mix much, but when they do, they all know their roles and responsibilitiesnote . A couple paragraphs later, he mentions how the Klan keeps order in the hollows of the countryside and what a shame their reach doesn't extend to majority-black cities. The only black people Rumford meets in his Southern adventure are a kid working at a diner in Atlanta, and his "darkey" driver his first few days. It seems unlikely life is that great for Blacks in a New Confederacy.
- Isn't it more like, he's saying it all was fine in the "Old South" before the "New South" agitprop began stirring up trouble, and then things overall went south in a hurry? He doesn't really approve of the present state of affairs. Though yes, he's very much speaking from an, er, conservative point of view.
- If it WAS that bad for them wouldn't they have left by now? It seems unlikely that the New Confederacy would care too much about people leaving.
- The main action of the series takes place in the 2030s and 40s, yet the book is littered with Vietnam War references (including one particularly petty Take That! where Jane Fonda is killed) and several officers still on active duty refer to Desert Storm as if it were something they had personally participated in.
- According to several reviewers it's fairly clear Lindt wrote the original drafts based off a Nineties perspective, and didn't bother to change much afterwards when he revamped it for the 2030s setting.
- How is it that even before everything fell apart and people might pursue any form of security, the Christian Marines were able to turn so much of local law enforcement to their advantage while kidnapping, threatening and extorting public officials?
- Recent high-profile cases and political correctness indeed gone mad have made some officers worried about being fired/sued/charged for doing their job. Also at this point, those same public officials are the source of a great deal of oppressive and unnecessary laws. The CM's could offer greatly loosened rules of force along with the removal of oppressively poor leadership.
- Early in the story, the Chinese gain rights to build a massive hydroelectric dam in the Bay of Fundy, and a 99 year monopoly on power in the Northern Confederacy/Victoria. This never comes up again, either when Rumford is watching TV in a general store thanks to a (now illegal) diesel generator, or when China is annoyed enough over their giving Cascadia to the Japanese to fire a warning shot with a nuke. So what happened?
- Obviously any monopoly doesn't come into force until the dam is actually built in the first place, if it even applies to small private generators at all. As for what happened—presumably they just nationalized the megaproject and finished it on their own when relations with China went sour. It comes online on schedule in the last few chapters.
- Atlanta in general. The Confederate legislature moved there and elected their own president, while Yancey called a new legislature and for help from the North to prevent a civil war. While Rumford is reconnoitering Atlanta, he befriends police who say the Black population is about to rise up, overthrow the legislature and declare a commune, and to help this along he tells all the cops to take their families and get out. So, his enemies implode under their own weight, right? He came to stop the New South government in Atalanta only to find the problem taken care of. Nope! Rumford for some reason, finds this victory insufficient if the Old South doesn't mobilize to crush the Commune, and nukes the place to force them into action. Not only does this far exceed his mission parameters, he has likely made a persistent enemy of Sam Yancey and for no practical benefit, beyond even the likely reaction to solving civil unrest with nukes.
- Actually, it seems pretty ironic that in their efforts to escape Federal tyranny, the Victorians have created a state that is commercially and militarily dependent on Russian aid, where China has a monopoly on power, the Japanese own and have developed massive tracts of land, and their governor is the first American leader since 1781 to have sworn fealty to a foreign (and deposed!) king.
- Is Victoria actually dependent on Russia for anything after the Civil War? There's no mention of further subsidies or arms imports after that, and they are said to run a net export surplus by the end, as well as their own defense industries. Their main trading partner is Japan. As for Kraft, his loyalty to the Kaiser is a private thing, and doesn't apply to his successor or Victoria as a country.
- Where is the Tzar even getting T-34s? By the time the novel starts, the production lines for them have been shut down for at least 80 years. Only a handful of countries even use them and even they only have a handful of them working.
- The Russians even in real life have huge stores of surplus everything from World War II onward. As the stereotype goes, they don't ever throw stuff away, they just mothball it somewhere in Siberia. Obviously it's slightly more complicated in real life, but being able to rig up a hundred T-34s in working order is by far one of the least unrealistic things they get to do in this book. (Of course, it would be still more realistic if the tanks were T-55s or the like, as there will be a lot more of those in working order, as well as living instructors available—and besides, they will generally do a better job at just about everything).
The TV Series About Queen Victoria