Monday, June 16, 2014

Book Review: Bring the Jubilee

Book Review: 'Bring the Jubilee' by Ward Moore

1 / 5 Stars

'Bring the Jubilee’ first was published in 1953; this Avon SF paperback version (222 pp.) was published in May, 1972. The cover artist is uncredited.

The novel opens with an intriguing statement: Hodge Blackmaker, the first-person narrator, is writing this - his memoir - in 1877. However, he was born in 1921. How did Hodge Blackmaker come to be writing his memoir decades before he was even born ?

The opening chapters disclose the circumstances of Blackmaker’s birth and upraising: born the only child to a dour and lifeless couple of modest means, living in the town of Wappingers Falls, New York. In this ‘alternity’ of the US, the Union was defeated at Gettysburg, and the Confederacy triumphant.

The twenty-six states of the federal government are economically and culturally backward, akin to the plight of the Southern states in the post-Civil War era of ‘our’ timeline. European powers exploit the states of the Northeast , a state of affairs endorsed by the South, which, even as it prospers, has little interest in improving the lot of the defeated Yankees. For the overwhelming majority of US citizens, a joyless lifetime of indentured servitude is the best they can hope to attain.

With aspirations to find a calling more rewarding than scrabbling for a living from farming, the teenaged Hodge leaves home for New York City, where he finds employment, and greater awareness of the depressing state of a world made real by the defeat of the Union.

As the narrative progresses, Blackmaker is introduced to the underworld of Union resistance in a New York City where it's the early forties, but the Second World War has never happened. He will be confronted with a series of choices about his role in the effort to undo the changes wrought by the Confederacy – an effort that, as it turns out, may rely less on violent action, and more on the presence of the Wrong Man at the Right Time…….

‘Bring’ is regarded as a classic of alternate history / time travel SF. But in reality, I found it dull and plodding.

Author Moore decides to adopt a prose style that mimics the labored diction of 19th century novels: ‘As before in my discourses with Tyss on the subject of the free will and its illusory influence on the fate of the unknowing individual, my arguments in opposition to this stance brought little more than dismissive remarks from my employer…..’

This ponderous, wordy writing style, when combined with the fact that the crucial stages of the plot don’t unfold until page 206 arrives, essentially turn ‘Jubliee’ into a tedious exposition on the social and moral aspects of a 1940s – 1950s American society permanently mired in a 19th Century mindset.

Those few moments of action or drama that do pop up in the narrative are scant, and do little to impart momentum to a plot that consists almost entirely of conversations about philosophy and metaphysics, or the main character’s internal monologues on Life, Love, and Destiny.

The closing pages of the novel are its best feature, and the author is to be credited with avoid too pat an ending. However, it’s clear that author Moore missed his chance to write a genuinely ‘modern’ novel about destiny, time travel, and alternate history. Instead of being a ‘breakthrough’ novel, ‘Bring’ is simply a conventional novel with a bit of sf content.

1 comment:

Edo Bosnar said...

Interesting review. Personally I wouldn't pan it so harshly (I'd probably give it a 3/5). I wasn't so bothered by the overall story (which I found pretty solid) or the author's prose style. However, I really don't think Moore did a good job of explaining why - even if it had lost the war - the already somewhat industrialized north would have become such a backwater, while the agricultural south with its slave-based economy would have remained some kind of economic and political powerhouse well into the 20th century.