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1824: The Arkansas War
Eric Flint
Del Rey, 429 pages

1824: The Arkansas 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
SF Site Review: The Rivers of War

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Steven H Silver

The lower Mississippi is the focal point for Eric Flint's 1824: The Arkansas War. Following Flint's version of the War of 1812, a confederation of Indian states has been established west of the Mississippi River. A dozen years later, the expanding United States finds the Indian country in the way. Making matters worse is the fact that the Arkansas Confederacy has made itself a haven for runaway slaves and abolitionists.

Flint tells his story through the eyes of numerous characters. He opens the novel with the story of Sheff, a freeman from Baltimore trying to make his way to the Arkansas Confederacy, Flint shows how lawless the United States is for Blacks, no matter what their legal status should be. Sheff's meeting with abolitionist John Brown, however, sets the stage for the introduction of numerous historical characters, from Andrew Jackson to Sam Houston and more. These characters not only serve to tell the story, but for a period which is largely unknown to the average reader, they also provide a link to the period.

These characters all change over time, not only within the course of the novel, but also in the period preceding it. Knowledge of Flint's earlier novel, 1812: Rivers of War, in which this world branched away from our own, is unnecessary. The book refers to the intervening years enough that it is clear what has happened, yet at the same time, it doesn't dwell on those events to the point where Flint appears to be rehashing things. The people in 1824: The Arkansas War know their own history and Flint only gives the reader enough information to make him comfortable in this world so dissimilar to our own.

While Flint doesn't reiterate what has gone on before ad nauseam, there are times during the novel when he does appear to drop in all the tidbits his research into the period. Generally well integrated within the narrative, there are a few times when the book does achieve a data-dump feel.

1824 excels at pointing out that there were many points in its history when the United States could have become a very different country. While most authors focus their tales of alternate history on the Civil War or World War II, Flint has chosen a little known period and portrayed the long term effects of a different outcome to what is seen as a minor war. His United States and Confederacy of the Arkansas create a North America which is much more ominous than our own world in a similar time period. With the election of Henry Clay in 1824, Flint's world takes another dramatic turn and it would be interesting to see how it differs and the changes progress. Would their still be a financial panic in 1837?

The Arkansas War is epic in its scope, presenting a well-thought-out alternative version of earlier nineteenth century America. Readers who haven't read the previous book will be able to follow the action and understand what has happened, making 1824: The Arkansas War a novel of an alternate world rather than a book which needs to explain how the world got into the state it is in.

Copyright © 2007 Steven H Silver

Steven H Silver is a five-time Hugo Nominee for Best Fan Writer and the editor of the anthologies Wondrous Beginnings, Magical Beginnings, and Horrible Beginnings. He is the publisher of ISFiC Press. In addition to maintaining several bibliographies and the Harry Turtledove website, Steven is heavily involved in convention running and publishes the fanzine Argentus.

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