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The Rivers of War
Eric Flint
Del Rey, 491 pages

The Rivers of War
Eric Flint
Eric Flint was born in California in 1947. He has a masters degree in history specializing in West African history. He left his doctoral program over political issues and supported himself from then until age 50 as a laborer, machinist and labor organizer. After winning the 1993 Writers of the Future contest, he published his first novel in 1993 and moved to full time writing in 1996. He lives with his wife Lucille in East Chicago, Indiana.

Eric Flint Website
ISFDB Bibliography
Trail of Glory Website

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Peter D. Tillman

"In 1814, we took a little trip..." This old Johnny Horton tune was about all I remembered about the War of 1812. Oh, and the British burned the White House.... You may be certain that you'll know a good deal more about this chapter of American history after you've read Eric Flint's latest, The Rivers of War. And be very well-entertained en route.

Flint's aim in this first of a new series is to construct a plausible Native Nation on America's western frontier, from the Cherokees and the other four Civilized Tribes who were dumped into Indian Territory (now eastern Oklahoma) in the first half of the 19th century, with unhappy results in our timeline (though they're doing OK now). Flint makes it clear that, with the number of European immigrants pouring into the Southeast, the tribes were going to lose their land, one way or another. He's trying for a less-horrible eviction than the Trail of Tears. What if the Tribes moved 'voluntarily,' with their cultures more or less intact, and developed a hybrid culture that would affect America for the good? I'll be following the progress of this what-might-have-been saga with interest -- particularly since my Scots-Irish ancestors helped make this history, and picked up a little Cherokee blood en route.

I came away from The Rivers of War with a more three-dimensional mental portrait of Andrew Jackson, a major character here, and whom I'd previously filed under "boorish rabble-rouser." He looks much better (or at least more complex) in Flint's portrayal. Most of his characters were historical figures (including Sam Houston, a protagonist), though Flint cheerfully admits to fleshing-out the less well-known ones to fit his story. His battle scenes are unflinching, and may be too graphic for some. But Flint seems to have an unusually good understanding of the principles of warfare. And you won't be surprised to learn that Flint was once a candidate for a Ph.D. in history.

Now, this is alternate history, but I don't think I'll spoil your fun by letting on that Flint has stuck pretty close to real history, so far anyway. And he's dished up an excellent historical novel here -- entertaining, informative, fast-moving, action-packed. Lots of blood and gore (fair warning). I read it in two sittings and liked it a lot. The Rivers of War is Flint's best novel to date -- he's gotten better in the craft of writing, characterization, depth of research -- heck, all the writerly virtues I can think of. Most importantly, he's a helluva storyteller. Highly recommended.

If you would like further fictional exploration of Cherokee history, I strongly recommend Larry McMurtry's very fine Zeke and Ned, set in mid-19th century Oklahoma, after their forced resettlement. A crackerjack, underrated historical novel.

Copyright © 2005 Peter D. Tillman

Pete Tillman has been reading SF for better than 40 years now. He reviews SF -- and other books -- for Amazon, Infinity-Plus, SF Site, and others. He's a mineral exploration geologist based in Arizona. Google "Peter D. Tillman" +review for many more of Pete's reviews.

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