Book Reviews

Book Review – Second Chance: An Alternative History, American Revolution, Military Time Travel Novel by Michael Roberts

My love of the alternate history genre should come as no surprise to anyone who has regularly read my blog. This genre takes a point of history and wonders what the world would look like if something different had happened. In the case of Second Chance, the book starts with an alternate version of the world we know. It’s one where the British succeeded in putting down the rebellion in the Colonies and are a global power in the 20th century. Using the resources at their disposal from the colonies, they created a Navy that could not be beaten. Only Russia and China don’t fall under their umbrella, and it’s believed that Russia will soon fall.

This is a world where the people of America are still expected to abide by laws created during Colonial times. They still are expected to quarter British soldiers in their homes. Punishment is swift for the Colonists, although there’s little “justice.” The “hero” we know as Thomas Nelson is a man whose wife was killed by a British soldier. His best friend enlists him in a scheme they have concocted to use an alien ship they have discovered to travel back in time and help the Colonies win the Revolution. They don’t know exactly how the alien ship works, but they have figured out how to travel a certain number of years. This puts Thomas at a point in history just before the Battle of Saratoga and the winter at Valley Forge. In the history they know, this was also when George Washington was captured and executed in Philadelphia.

Nelson is sent back with modified armaments to help him. They are modern weapons that do not have to be reloaded after each shot, but disguised as the weaponry of that era. His mission is to save George Washington, help the Colonists win the Battle of Saratoga, and help the Continental Army survive the winter at Valley Forge, then get out of the way of history and have a nice life. There’s no going back to the future for Thomas.

This is the first of five books in the series so far. It sets the stage nicely, having the hero arrive from a place of alternate history, which was different from most other time-travel/alternate history books I read. Thomas is driven by the pain of losing his wife and the British officer who raped and killed her getting away with it. His firepower and guerilla-style warfare leads the British to give him the name “Pale Rider” and elevate him to mythic proportions. He has a modern-day cell phone with him, not for communication, but for looking up historical events that have been loaded in its memory. Once in a while, he turns it on to gather some information, then shuts it down. Once the battery drains, it’s useless.

This was the one big problem I had: the book assumes that many modern-era inventions will still happen. This is in terms of the weaponry Thomas carries back with him as well as the cell phone and internet back in the future. War is usually a great conduit for scientific advances, so I find it hard to believe that many of the same scientific discoveries would have been made or advanced in a world where the British had their boots on the necks of almost everyone on the planet.

The other problem was the dialogue. George Washington and others wouldn’t have understood a lot of Thomas’ vocabulary, except they are talking the same way, using words such as “okay” which hadn’t been coined yet. It’s a little distracting at times and made me momentarily stop reading. There are a few other discrepancies with history that require suspension of disbelief, but this is a time-travel novel so it’s generally forgivable.

What I liked were the characterizations. Thomas is a lone wolf of sorts in his current life, and not a soldier or anything really special. Yet, going back to colonial times with the knowledge and equipment he has is enough to shake the British Army to its core. He meets people along the way who help him out, and he forms attachments to them. It’s likely an extension of his grief over his wife that leads him to do this, all the while trying to complete his mission.

I read this for free with my Kindle Unlimited account, and I’ve already downloaded the next book in the series. It’s a good read and not a difficult one that requires any great knowledge of history. It also doesn’t get bogged down describing the weapons used, something that often has me skipping paragraphs in other military thrillers. One thing I would have liked to learn more about is the world Thomas comes from, where the British rule the Earth. For fans of alternate history and the American Revolution, I recommend it.

Next book in the series:

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