I wanted to like Jeff Shaara’s latest Civil War novel, A Chain of Thunder: A Novel of the Siege of Vicksburg
. Really, I did. It seems like I say that every time I pick one up. After all, I very much appreciate all Shaara has done to generate broad interest in the Civil War, eclipsed in the modern era only by Ken Burns. Also, on the couple of occasions I’ve met him, I’ve found him to be a really nice guy.
But at 562 pages, A Chain of Thunder
is easily 150 pages too long. Characters obsess and get angsty, obsess and get angsty, obsess and get angsty--and it never seems to add up to much. Sure, the novel covers a lot of ground--most of middle Mississippi as Ulysses S. Grant marches inland and then doubles back in his envelopment of Vicksburg--but it hardly ever seems to go anywhere. Like any siege, the book just hunkers down and stays there. By the time Grant captured the Gibraltar of the West, I felt far more relief than excitement.
Read on, Macduff, at Emerging Civil War