The Last Full Measure: An alternate history by Jack Campbell

fantasy and science fiction book reviewsThe Last Full Measure by Jack CampbellThe Last Full Measure by Jack Campbell

Jack Campbell, a retired U.S. Navy officer, is best known for his military science fiction novels which he writes under the pseudonym Jack Campbell (the LOST FLEET series) and his real name, John G. Hemry (STARK’S WAR, JAG IN SPACE). With his latest offering, a novella called The Last Full Measure, he brings his military mind back down to earth.

In this alternate history, the U.S. government no longer upholds the constitution. The president’s free use of the Alien and Sedition Acts have put the military and the press in the ruling party’s hands. To protect itself, the government no longer allows U.S. citizens to learn true American history, so most Americans don’t realize that the freedoms their ancestors enjoyed have gradually been eroded.

Even though the Constitution is no longer easily available for U.S. citizens to read, Joshua Chamberlain, a professor of rhetoric, knows something has gone wrong, so he begins to investigate and discovers the truth. For this he’s sentenced to jail, along with a tall gangly man named Abraham Lincoln who the authorities suspect may be a focal point for rebellion. When rebels hold up the train which they think carries Lincoln to his jail cell, they free Chamberlain instead. He is only too willing to join the revolution.

Along the way Professor Chamberlain will meet, or hear tell of, such famous characters as Sam Houston, Ulysses Grant, Robert E. Lee, Cump Sherman, George Armstrong Custer, Jeb Stuart, John Lawrence Burns, Lewis Armistead, Winfield Hancock and, of course, Abraham Lincoln. He’ll be forced to consider many ethical issues. Slavery is the “easy” one. He’ll also have to think about the role of government in society, the necessity of war, and the danger of letting self-interest dictate policies rather than a moral conviction. As a professor of rhetoric he’ll learn that sometimes words are not enough. Sometimes action is required, even by the “little” men who don’t realize they have an important role to play.

The Last Full Measure is a short offering by Jack Campbell — only about 100 pages long — and will probably appeal most to those who enjoy American historical fiction or fans of Jack Campbell’s military science fiction who want to see what he can do with a story set in the past instead of the future. I enjoyed the story as an alternate history and, perhaps, a warning. It feels like The Last Full Measure may be the beginning of something bigger. The end leaves us feeling unfulfilled but hopeful.

The Last Full Measure — (2013) Publisher: As the author of the bestselling Lost Fleet series, Jack Campbell s name is well-known to fans of interstellar heroics. Now, with his thrilling new novella The Last Full Measure, Campbell brings his keen eye for military adventure and political intrigue to a tale that is earthbound, but no less wondrous… In a transformed mid-nineteenth century America dominated by plantation owners and kept in line by Southern military forces, a mild-mannered academic from Maine, Professor Joshua Chamberlain, stands accused of crimes against the nation. In court alongside him is Abraham Lincoln, whose fiery rhetoric brands him a ‘threat to the security of the United States of America.’ Convicted, Chamberlain is sentenced to forty years hard labor, while Lincoln s fate is indefinite detention at Fortress Monroe. But Professor Chamberlain then encounters military minds who understand the true ideals upon which the country was founded and who want to foment revolution. To succeed, they need a leader, someone to inspire the people to take up the cause of liberty: Lincoln. All they have to do is flawlessly execute a daring plan to rescue him from the darkest federal prison. In The Last Full Measure, Campbell delivers a riveting look at an America where war is imminent, and nothing is as it should be.

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KAT HOOPER, who started this site in June 2007, earned a Ph.D. in neuroscience and psychology at Indiana University (Bloomington) and now teaches and conducts brain research at the University of North Florida. When she reads fiction, she wants to encounter new ideas and lots of imagination. She wants to view the world in a different way. She wants to have her mind blown. She loves beautiful language and has no patience for dull prose, vapid romance, or cheesy dialogue. She prefers complex characterization, intriguing plots, and plenty of action. Favorite authors are Jack Vance, Robin Hobb, Kage Baker, William Gibson, Gene Wolfe, Richard Matheson, and C.S. Lewis.

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