For decades the generals who commanded the armies of the British Expeditionary Force in the First World War have been subjected to considerable criticism in both the popular and scholarly media. Long derided as “butchers and bunglers”, they were typically viewed as unimaginative fools who callously presided over the slaughter of a generation. In recent years, however, these much maligned figures have enjoyed something of a rehabilitation, as a number of historians have argued that the British military leadership was far more innovative in their application of new tactics and technologies to break the stalemate on the Western Front than they have been often credited, and that the army was just beginning to profit from the benefits of this when the war came to an end.
Ian Beckett and Steven Corvi’s book can be categorized as part of this rehabilitative effort. A collection of short biographies written by different historians, it offers a reexamination of the nine generals who commanded armies during Haig’s tenure as the commander of the BEF. As a collaborative work it bears the idiosyncracies typical of a project, but all of the chapters share a sympathetic attitude towards their subject, with each focusing on a particular action that serves as a case study for their interpretation. For the most part the treatment manages to be both sympathetic yet even-handed, as only occasionally (as in the case of John Lee’s chapter on William Birdwood) do they come across as excessively partisan.
Yet despite his presence on nearly every page, one person seems curiously absent – Haig himself. While the focus is properly on the generals under his command, the analysis of their roles and performance invariably touches on their relationship with Haig. Given the reevaluation being undertaken by the authors, the work might have been stronger had there been a separate entry on Haig, or at least a chapter assessing his overall role within the BEF. Without it, the chapters are nine useful threads that need to be tied together in order to properly support the case that the overall assessment of these men has been unfair. It is the major limitation in what is otherwise a useful reassessment of men who have at times been judged unfairly for their efforts to grapple with the changing demands of the new ways of warfare on the Western Front.
The dustjacket cover is a piece of irrelevant silliness; there are no stories in this volume involving Lee and Grant as Roman commanders. What it does contain is thirteen original short stories premised in a variety of different histories. The stories are:
“A Key to the Illuminated Heretic” by A. M. Dellamonica – Joan of Arc fails to recant, and instead survives to lead a sect of Christian dissidents fighting for their survival.
“The Road to Endless Sleep” by Jim Fiscus – A Roman centurion loyal to Marc Antony finds himself the commander of Cleopatra’s bodyguard after their triumph over Octavian.
“Not Fade Away” by William Sanders – General Douglas MacArthur does not escape from the Philippines in 1942 but instead ends up a prisoner of the Japanese.
“I Shall Return” by John Mina – Having been assigned to the Philippines, Dwight Eisenhower and his subordinates George Patton and Jimmy Doolittle mount a much more successful defense of the islands from Japanese invasion.
“Shock and Awe” by Harry Turtledove – Instead of a religious following, Jesus inspires a military uprising against the Romans.
“A Good Bag” by Brad Linaweaver – During a 1910 seance, General Francis Younghusband receives a message from the past that warns of the necessity of war between Britain and Germany.
“The Burning Spear at Twilight” by Mike Resnick – Jomo Kenyatta devises a very modern campaign to drive the British from Kenya.
“‘It Isn’t Every Day of the Week’” by Roland J. Green – A daring naval decision by Captain Stephen Decatur leads to a very different War of 1812.
“Measureless to Man” by Judith Tarr – Genghis Khan’s conversion to Judaism creates a much different Mongol Empire – and spawns a doctrinal conflict with their counterparts in Europe.
“Over the Sea from the Skye” by Lillian Stewart Carl – The Duke of Cumberland’s defeat at the hands of Bonnie Prince Charlie creates a difficult situation for a young woman.
“First, Catch Your Elephant” by Esther M. Friesner – Hannibal’s pachyderm-equipped invasion of Italy faces difficulty when his men run out of food in the Alps.
“East of Appomattox” by Lee Allred – Robert E. Lee is sent on a diplomatic mission to London for a victorious Confederacy facing difficulties.
“Murdering Uncle Ho” by Chris Bunch – In a North Vietnam occupied by invading American forces, an American commando mission is sent on a mission to eliminate the surviving Communist leadership.
Like any short story collection, individual readers will have their own favorites from among the offerings, but the range of tales offers something for just about any fan of alternate history. Overall, this is a good entry to a solid series, one that offers intriguing tales into worlds that might have been.
While Harry Turtledove’s name is featured prominently on the cover, he authors just one of the thirteen short stories in this collection of alternate history tales. Though the settings range from ancient Egypt (in Noreen Doyle’s “Horizon”) to twentieth-century Istanbul (the setting of James Fiscus’s “American Mandate”), the theme uniting them all is the different paths events might have taken should the people, choices, and settings have been any different. Like most collections, the stories are a mixed bag in terms of quality, with some working better than others. Readers will undoubtedly differ as to which stories these are, but just about any fan of the alternate history genre will find something to enjoy within the pages of this book.
When Darren hit the city with Mr.Crepsley and Evra, the fun quickly disperses when bodies are discovered in the city. Is Mr.Crepsley to blame? Can Evra and Darren stop these horrid things from happening or will they lose their lives saving the innocent?
I love Darren Shan. This is only the third book I have read by him, but his writing is amazing. His writing is simple, fast paced, and well thought out. While you can tell that this is more of a middle grade series, the gore is still there. Whether Darren is in a slaughter house or watching a murder happen, the simplistic details are still fairly graphic.
I thought that this book was very well thought out. There were so many little plot twists. For example, the intro of this book almost gave me a heart-attack! I love Mr.Crepsley's character and the thought of him purposely killing humans? NOOO!
I enjoy that Darren's character doesn't blindly accept everything. He understands that even the undead need to have morals, or even THEY can become disrespected and cast out. I like the realistic struggles he has. It's not been an entire year and of course, the pain of missing his life is still a huge hole. Meeting Debbie was good for Darren, and I'm a little heart broken that he had to leave her...like that. It was sweet for him to decorate the tree and leave her with this last reminder of him. To let her know he listened, he cared.
Speaking of Debbie.... her character was very enjoyable. When we first met her I was sure that her character would be some kind of trick meant to distract Darren or possibly even kill him. They had an instantaneous friendship, which is completely realistic. You meet new people and sometimes you just....click.
Debbie helped Darren keep his cool. She accepted Evra and I feel that given time, (even immediately) she would have accepted him as well. She was a very down to earth character who helped to show Darren that compassion for others is something you shouldn't lose, It can make you weak, but it also makes you feel alive. Everybody deserves someone in their life that shows them that it's okay to hurt and that it's okay to care.