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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 Aug. 04, 2017 :
I really like alternate history fiction, especially if its point of divergence is not one of the usual ones.*
This is a colorful story, full of exotic locales. You may not think of Idaho or the Willamette Valley as exotic places, but when you see a for-profit prison with the words ARBEIT MACHT FREI over its gates** along the banks of the Willamette, or a majestic Albert Speer palace raised in Boise, you might think differently.
It's a story full of sex and violence, including a good deal of violent sex and sexualized violence -- really, more violence than I would have liked, but tastes differ.
One thing I can say in favor of the way Greigh portrays violence, though: he doesn't focus on war or even for the most part on interpersonal violence, but on the way people experience violence most of the time in real life: in the form of accidents caused by carelessness or recklessness, which all too often the perpetrators do't pay for in any way -- not in our world, anyhow.
Really, though, what I find most compelling about this story is the strange world which Greigh has crafted, a world which could have grown out of our own history, if things had gone a bit differently. It has its own countries, its own technology, its own religions and customs and dialects of English.
This book is definitely worth your time.
*Confederate victory, Nazi victory, Trump victory -- no, wait, that last nightmare's our own world.
**That's one of Greigh's more successful jokes: at this prison, unlike at Auschwitz, the motto is an honest statement of fact rather than a cruel lie: inmates are only confined there for as long as it takes to pay off the fines assessed on them.
(reviewed 4 months after purchase)
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 26 days after purchase)