In today’s world there are lots of movies, like at least four, and thousands upon thousands of books and comics. So this brings up a big issue – what do I read and/or watch? What is good and what have I missed?
Today I’m talking about: The Grasslands by Kenneth Tam
In 1881, explorers in the rocky mountains on either side of the Canadian-U.S. border discovered gateways to a new planet. The British Empire and the Unites States quickly partnered to settle and exploit this rich Earth-like world…
These words are the brief description that covers the back cover of this alternate history series. It’s a world where the discovery of a new world changed how we know ours. With access to a new world rich with resources humans didn’t need to fight as much for the resources of our world and history changed. This gives us the setting for Kenneth Tam’s latest series His Majesty’s New World.
That’s the world Kenneth built.
The Grasslands, book one, starts in 1919 and history as we know it has changed. There never was the First World War and the Third Afghan War was a more brutal affair with greater casualties then our timeline ever had. The Wild West era, which ended in 1890 with the death of the frontier, never ended and instead continued onwards into the new world.
The book follows Major Thomas Waller and the men of the Royal Newfoundland Regiment, straight off their campaign in the Third Afghan War, being assigned to escort two mysterious women across the mysterious and unknown lands of the new world. With the help of a cowboy named Smith, Major Waller and his RNR must face off against the daunting hordes of savages, while protecting the ladies, discovering their secrets and uncovering the mysterious of the new world.
I went into this book expecting something akin to a Vietnam book; a platoon of soldiers exploring a jungle world and dealing with the hidden and alien threats. I got something similar to the movie Predator. But what I got was unexpected. I didn’t get a small platoon of men; I got a Regiment – 400 men. I didn’t get mines, explosives, and sneak attacks; I got formations, lines of soldiers, and heavy machine guns firing from stationary positions. None of this was bad it was just unlike anything I’d ever read.
I have never been a history guy; I knew what I learned all throughout elementary and high school and for my university history requirement I took History of Math but that’s where it stopped for me. I’d never really invested any time studying Pre-WWII warfare. I did medieval warfare and pretty much skipped all the way to WWII when school started cramming it down my throat (rightfully so). So the style of warfare that existed in a WWI era was completely foreign to me. Even in my WWII action books I got a platoon of soldiers fighting as one.
Kenneth Tam is able to take 400 characters and give us what we need. We get exciting battles, characters we care about, and we worry when the odds get to great. We feel for the RNR and the mysterious girls. We also get a murderous threat, a villain to fear, with the savages.
The term savages in the book refers to the horrific creatures that live in the New World. They are not Native Americans or other derogatory of the word, they are Caucasian beings who are strong, faster and more bloodthirsty the humans. Without giving away to much the savages reminded me of the Reavers from Firefly; creatures lost to their darker-side.
Kenneth has brilliantly constructed a new divergent timeline for humanity. He has examined all of the ramifications of a newly discovered planet – just a train ride away – and carefully plotted out how this would affect events like the WWI, WWII, and the smaller skirmishes across the globe.
There are six books in this series, and two in its spin-off series (one that jumps to the 1940’s) Champions. [The second Champion book – War Footing (Nov ’13) – is made up of five serialized enovellas that have released throughout the year]
Kenneth Tam, author of Equations and Defense Command, has another brilliant story on his hands. He knows how to hit the proper amount of detail needed to engage us in a beautifully laid out world without feeling like a history lesson – a rare trait for alternate-history book.