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Mild-mannered Gene Greigh (rhymes with weigh) fights evil and injustice as the mighty Lethargy Lad, editor and publisher of Piracy Press, as well as campaigns to save the world and destroy the Fe'ral Reserve as the General Cashier of The Confederate Mint. He is the narrowly acclaimed author of the counterfactual historical novel West of '89, and is currently working on a hard science fiction piece masquerading as a horror fantasy. Watch for the upcoming Strangler Spruce.
on June 05, 2012 :
The best "first novel" I've read in ages, "West of '89" made me laugh so much that the cat abandoned my lap. Then Greigh brought tears to my eyes, and a minute later made me laugh again. Only a first-rate storyteller can do that to me.
Greigh's alternate history starts diverging from ours in 1810, when West Florida secedes from Spain and is annexed by the USA. That leads to New England's secession in 1814, a major fork in the historical road.
The story is set in 1989, in a North America with no Canada. The States are bounded in the southwest by the Republic of Texas, a bit of Mexico, and the Confederated Republics of California (CRC). To the north lie the Inuktik Circumpolar Enterprise (ICE), the Republic of Quebec, and the Commonwealths of Atlantis (New England and what we call the Canadian maritime provinces). A 1922 revolution turned Dixie (east of the Mississippi River and south of the northern borders of Tennessee and North Carolina to the tip of Florida's peninsula) into the Citizens' Collective of Communal Provinces (CCCP); but the States include the Caribbean islands and Central America as far south as Costa Rica, bounded by Gran Columbia (which still owns Panama).
Richly and plausibly detailed, Greigh's greater "California" is populated with highly believable characters, including some real people you'll recognize (despite altered names) from our own time line -- ID-ing them was a lot of fun for me.
Greigh has fun with the language, too, incorporating regional dialects both real and extrapolated. His pacing makes it hard to put the book down after the first couple of chapters, but a few times (after particularly disturbing scenes) I found I had to take a short breather. The tension builds steadily, knitting subplots together, to a credible and satisfying conclusion.
Why not 5 stars, then? I'm so tough a grader, the only SF novel worthy of 5 stars that springs to my mind is "Stranger in a Strange Land." But even as a lifelong fan, I'd give Heinlein's first book "For Us, The Living" only 3 stars.
"West of '89" leaves me eager to see what Gene Greigh will write next. Buy it!
(reviewed within a month of purchase)