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Joe Steele
by Harry Turtledove
Roc, $8.99, 464pp
Published: December 2015

The Great Depression is still affecting the US as desperate Americans hope one of the  potential Democratic candidates, New York governor Franklin D. Roosevelt or California Congressman Joe Steele,  can lead the nation to recovery. But Roosevelt dies in a fire leaving only Steele as a candidate.  Joe Steele is the son of a Russian immigrant worker and is more on the side of the common man that with Washington D.C.’s elite.  Steele wins in a landslide and quickly puts America back to work with reforms he forces through Congress. But there is a dark side to Steele’s leadership as newspapers are silenced and critics tend to find themselves exiled to work camps.

Unlike several recent Turtledove books we have only two main characters to follow, two brothers who choose different paths, which gives the book better focus, though neither character is particularly interesting. But the events in the US, even an alternate history US are well beyond my suspension of belief. That people would stand by silently as people are sent to work camps or executed by firing squads is more than I can accept. The history itself does not work for me either as, other than Steele as President, there are few differences in the way things really happened. Rather like the Supervolcano trilogy Turtledove seems to ignore the ripple effects that such a monumental event would create in the rest of the world as America charges along and wins the war on pretty much the same timetable, minus the atomic bombs. 

While hardcore Turtledove fans will possibly want to read this, I cannot really recommend this but at least it appears to be a stand-alone instead of the beginning of another long trilogy. There are so many things that could have been, should have been, explored in this alternate USA that would have made this a really interesting read but Turtledove just ignored. ~~ Stephanie L Bannon

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