- Civil War – Check
- Abraham Lincoln – Check
- Robert E. Lee – Check
- Dire Consequences – Check
- Man from the Future Asking for Help- What?! – Check
Now this is Historical Sci-Fi that I can get excited about and I usually hate anything Sci-Fi related.
In 1849, Abraham Lincoln has a strange encounter on a train. A man, Edwin Blair, says that he needs his help. The catch is that he doesn’t need his help now; he needs it in 14 years, but he will give him the retainer now.
Fast forward to 1863, the Civil War is raging and Edwin Blair is granted an audience by then President Lincoln. Edwin Blair isn’t selling anything, but what he has to get them to buy is hard to swallow. You see, he is a 19th century history teacher from the future, 2203 to be exact, and he needs both the armies of the North and the South to join together in order to ward off some “pests” that are going to endanger America in the future.
Blair has to walk a razor thin line between telling them enough to believe him and do what he needs them to do or tell them too much and blow their minds to the point that they won’t take action and lock him in the booby hatch as a crazy person.
Once he convinces Lincoln and his cabinet, his struggle isn’t over. He has to then go convince Robert E. Lee and the great army of the South to join he and the North in a united cause. It isn’t easy and the clock is ticking. The pests are coming on July 3rd and he needs everyone to be ready to defeat them.
What I loved about A New Birth of Freedom: The Visitor is that even though the sci-fi aspect is hugely important to the story, it really takes a backseat in the action. It isn’t like Edwin Blair blasts onto the scene in a funny Star Wars getup and yells, “I am from the future and aliens are coming to attack!” The aliens aren’t even called aliens, they are pests and Edwin Blair uses his knowledge and love of 19th century history to prove his point, not cool gadgets and tools from the future. Well, he does use a few of those, but he does it sparingly.
He convinces these important men to stand together by being able to tell them things that he shouldn’t and wouldn’t know if he was just a man off of the street from 1863. By showing Lincoln a message that he had written, but at that time, hadn’t even sent yet. (He got these from the National Archives of the future just like we could)
The Visitor’s strength also lies in the dialogue. When Lincoln talks, it sounds like what I think Lincoln would say. When Robert E. Lee interacts with Blair, it feels real, not like total poppycock. Pielke has taken a pivotal point in our American history and created another outcome that I couldn’t have imagined pulling off. Even better, he does it well.
My one gripe- this is a trilogy so the ending is a cliffhanger. That was intentional and I understand that. The thing is, I am not really a fan of cliffhangers, especially when I can’t go and buy the next book right away. I want the next one, now!
A New Birth of Freedom: The Visitor by Robert G. Pielke
I received a PDF copy of this book from Tribute Books, but that fact didn’t influence my review above.