cover image Sentry Peak

Sentry Peak

Harry Turtledove. Baen Books, $24 (416pp) ISBN 978-0-671-57887-9

Readers who remember General Rosenkrantz from Turtledove's Civil War- inspired How Few Remain (1997) have been waiting for the appearance of a General Guildenstern. Here he is--not incompetent but overconfident, lecherous and fond of the bottle, leading the gray-clad armies of southern Detina on behalf of King Avram, whose plans to free the fair-haired serfs of northern Detina led the northerners to secede and to field blue-clad armies in defense of their King Geoffrey. Opposing Guildenstern is Thraxton the Braggart (and even translated into an alternate and fantastical universe, Braxton Bragg is still odious), ably assisted by the natural genius of Ned of the Forest. This funhouse mirror of a book proceeds the rest of the way through the Chickamauga campaign of 1863, ending in the ""southron"" victory of General Bart (Grant's middle name was ""Simpson"") and Doubting George (Thomas). Readers who resist the temptation to fling the book down will find more than a treasure trove of japes and wordplays here. They will also discover some serious and cogent thinking on the position of minorities, the art of command (as practiced both well and badly) and the Civil War, on which this author is perhaps the outstanding expert in the SF and fantasy field. And they will find some exacting tests of their cultural literacy--it helps in identifying the Battle of Essoville to know that J. Paul Getty is an oil billionaire, and that one can identify ""Roast Beef William"" either by his having written a tactical manual or by knowing of the fast-food chain by the name of Hardee's. (Sept.)