Wednesday, 28 September 2011

Rebel by Bernard Cornwell

Start of a series and a great tale in its own right set during the US civil war. I actually found it hard to warm to Cornwell's main protagonist, a feckless Northerner who somehow ends up fighting for the South. Nevertheless the civil war setting is so beguiling and so well painted that this matters not. Most of the book is actually set in the very early days of the war with civillians North and South working themselves up into patriotic fervor. Their naivity is exquisitely portrayed by Cornwell and the reader winces again and again at their foolishness.

The railway had revolutionised logistics and troop movements. The industrial revolution had revolutionised supply and armament. Technological advances had brought the murdering power of artillery to a new pinnacle and the miniƩ bullet had finally made the rifle a practical infantry weapon rendering both the heroic infantry charge and battlefield cavalry effectively obsolete. Neither the generals nor the populace had yet grasped these new realities but all delusions are harshly swept aside in the climax of the novel at the first battle of Manassas (Bull Run) where the hard reality of modern warfare is brought bloodily home to all protagonists.

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