Review: A New Birth of Freedom: The Visitor – Robert G. Pielke

Paperback: 226 pages
Publisher: Altered Dimensions Press; 2nd edition (August 15, 2010)
Language: English
ISBN-10: ISBN-10: 1936021234
ISBN-13: 978-ISBN-13: 978-1936021239
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Characters:

Edwin Blair – History Teacher and Time Traveler from the year 2136.
Abraham Lincoln – 16th President of the United States.

Synopsis:

It has taken centuries to recognize that all humans possess certain unalienable rights. There will come a time when we have to consider whether others deserve those rights as well. That time will come on July 3, 1863.

When a stranger carrying a shiny, metallic valise steps aboard a train carrying Abraham Lincoln home from a two year stint in Congress, everyone stares, wondering about the stranger’s odd clothing and strange footwear with the word Nike emblazoned on them.

When the strange man shows up in Lincoln’s office at the White house 14 years later, still wearing the same clothes, carrying the same valise and looking not a day older, the president and his staff know something is odd.

But when Edwin Blair opens his valise and projects a 3D image of the Earth on Lincoln’s wall, then proceeds to tell a fanciful tale about time traveling aliens preparing to land at Gettysburg on July 3rd, they are sure they’ve met a lunatic.

Unfortunately for them, they’re wrong.

A New Birth of Freedom: The Visitor, is the first book in a new science fiction series that follows the adventures of Edwin Blair and the aliens known as Pests as they chase each other through all the centuries of Earth’s past.

Review

I found this book to be an enjoyable adventure into America’s past, in this case The Battle of Gettysburg, this time though, there are Aliens involved. I liked Mr. Pielke’s character development and the story line kept me involved. Having been my first exposure to alternative history stories, I found it to be pretty enjoyable.

If there were one drawback, it turned out to be communication. It was determined that the aliens learned things basically through us wanting them to know it. With that in mind, I found myself wondering why the characters didn’t just want the Aliens to know English instead of other languages.

Outside of that drawback though, I think if you are a civil war buff or a fan of alternative histories, then you might want to give A New Birth of Freedom: The Vistor a shot. I’d definitely recommend it for a fun weekend read.

Excerpt
Prologue

Edwin Blair (July 6, 1863)

Edwin Blair’s headache ebbed and flowed as remnants of what-used-to-be clashed with the influx of what-now-is deep in the cavernous recesses of his mind. At least, he thought, as my memory evaporates in the passage of time, I should expect the rebellion of one against the other to do me less and less harm. Although no one was looking at him at the moment as he leaned against a shady tree, were they to do so they would perhaps have noticed a hint of bitterness on his visage as the word “time” passed through his ruminations. He had neither expected nor wanted any of the Pests to survive. For as long as he could remember, his mantra had been—and he chanted it to himself—the only good Pest is a dead Pest. With all of them dead, he reasoned, a new future would develop without the horrors these Pests would mete out. They simply wouldn’t exist in this modified future. But he soon realized this would bring about a self-defeating dilemma. They have to invade the planet where and when I come from. Otherwise, I’d never have come back to the past to stop them in the first place. He clenched his teeth at the thought and sighed. We can’t kill them all. Maybe that’s why previous attempts to change the future have failed—if there were any. It’s just not possible to exterminate them. Logic trumps everything. The surviving Pests change things. If they somehow escape and warn the all the others about what I’m doing, they could prevent me from doing anything at all, and I’d have to start all over. But I have to do something. He shuddered and looked off toward the fourteen imprisoned Pests. There’s one thing I know for sure, however. We don’t need their eggs.

With his valise safely stowed with President Lincoln’s personal belongings and guarded around the clock, he was reasonably confident the mission could be salvaged. But how? He adjusted his back against the trunk of the tree as an early morning mist became an un-refreshing drizzle, and turned the collar of his black leather jacket up around his ears. At least it’s quiet, he mouthed while scribbling into one of the notebooks he had given to John Hay. Using an unfamiliar quill pen, his words only on occasion approaching legibility, he wrote.

Everything now depends on you following through with your plan. You may have lied to the others about your intentions, but you can’t lie to me. If you are reading this, then we have been successful.

At least I think so. He looked up again, put the pen into the inkwell filled with a pale pink liquid sitting on the ground next to him and rubbed his eyes. Then again…will I even believe I wrote this to myself? He picked up the pen and tried to smile, looking this time toward several of his companions that were getting ready to consume coffee and a few hardtack biscuits, perhaps even some pudding. He nodded to them before returning to his journal.

Only the continuing threat of the Pests still lurking in the two prisms is supporting this truce. It’s more fragile than it appears. They think the danger is over, but it’s just begun.

John Hay noticed Blair’s glance from several paces away and pointed to his own steaming cup of coffee with raised eyebrows. He shouted, “Mr. Blair, can I get you some?”

“ Please.” Blair kept the volume of his own voice down, relying on an accompanying nod to be sufficient.

“ No hardtack yet, but there’s sugar. I’ll be back soon.” Hay strode off with Joseph Pierce at his side.

“ Thanks, John,” Blair muttered as he watched the two of them depart. Pierce was waving his arms with some sort of patterned repetition—no doubt trying to explain some complex Indian phraseology he thought might be useful. Washburne, Stanton and Pinkerton were nowhere to be seen. Probably already with Lincoln in his tent. He returned to his writing.

If I’ve really succeeded, then all these changes should be reflected in the historical records on the computer—the fight with the Pests and this truce—but if not then something’s gone terribly wrong.

He stopped writing for a moment and shook his head. I’ve got to get back into the computer soon. I shouldn’t have even turned it off. I don’t like logging in while people are watching. I should probably change the pass-code, but it’s based on my wife’s birth date so I’m not likely to forget it. Should I take the chance?

The only thing I know that’s changed is my memory. The historical records may not have changed at all, but I’m slowly losing my memory of them…and everything else too, it seems. My guess is that the changes I’ve made to the history I used to know so well are rapidly affecting future events—too rapidly. As a result, my memory about them is no longer referring to anything, yet it continues to try.

The sounds of hooves slogging through the rain-soaked grass and the clattering of wagons startled him but didn’t interrupt his writing.

The courier traffic is beginning to intensify, and as the circus gets larger it will become unmanageable. Maybe today Lincoln will issue the martial law decree he promised…or threatened…depending on one’s perspective.

He wasn’t planning to write much—just enough for his words to be a reminder of what he had to do. If I have to try again, I have to make sure these same people are included…did I write that list of four names to myself on a previous attempt? Was it me? If so, nothing has changed. Am I just repeating everything over and over in an infinite circularity? He paused and looked over what he wrote. How can I know? Have I written this before? I have no memory of earlier attempts…but that means nothing.

He stopped and pulled the list out of his jacket to look at it. The same as it used to be…or is it? How would I know? He drew a deep breath while rubbing his temples, his teeth gritted. I really have to find out somehow if any changes have occurred in the future. I have to get into the computer. I just may have to start over immediately. Another interruption ended his contemplation.

“ Mr. Blair! You’re in luck. There was fresh coffee…genuine coffee, to boot! I watched a soldier crush the beans with a rifle butt. And there were a few hardtack puddings, too.” John Hay trudged through the sodden grass, placed the steaming cup and plate on a rock behind Edwin Blair, and then put his hands on his hips. “’Tis good to have the Tycoon amongst us, though he’s a bit jarred by the Hellcat’s carriage accident a few days ago. But, as suspected, Mrs. Lincoln has earned her reputation. The very ground she fell upon was too terrified of her to do her any serious injury.” Then, laughing, he added while looking skyward once more, “How are you this gloomy morn? It may rain again, judging from the clouds.”

“ I’m puzzled, John.” Blair picked up the coffee then paused to shake his head.

“ As you usually are, sir…. Why this time?”

“ It’s that…” Blair took a swig of the black brew. “Yeow!” He promptly spit it out. “It’s scalding!” People nearby glanced over at him, shocked at the sound. “And it tastes terrible.”

Hay laughed and shook his head. “I never did see anyone quaff hot coffee before. Quaffing’s for cold beer. And it tastes better too.”

Blair swirled his tongue around the roof of his mouth, wincing and muttering curses under his breath. After a moment, he ventured a much smaller sip. “When I first met you in the President’s office, if you had remembered me being here before, that would have been very odd, right?”

“ It sure would have, Mr. Blair! It would have been impossible!” Hay rolled back, laughing. “No one remembers you from before. You were a real top sockdolager to us all then.”

Blair eyed Hay directly and just above a whisper said, “Someone remembers me.”

Hay scrunched his brow. “Who?”

Blair inclined his head toward the prisoners’ enclosure. “That Pest.”

About the Author

Robert Pielke, a native of Baltimore, Maryland, now lives in Claremont, California.

He earned a B.A. in History at the University of Maryland, an M. Div. in Systematic Theology at the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Gettysburg, and a Ph. D. in Social Ethics from the Claremont Graduate School.

He taught on ground and online for countless years at George Mason University in Virginia, El Camino College in California and online for the University of Phoenix. As a professor, he published a variety of articles, including an analysis of political labeling (“Political Typology: A Suggested Clarification” – in Reason Papers), a phenomenological depiction of science fiction (“Star Wars vs. 2001: A Question of Identity” – in Extrapolation and elsewhere), an ethical appraisal of humanity’s eventual encounter with extra-terrestrials (“Humans and Aliens: A Unique Relationship” in Mosaic) and an exploration of sex roles (“Are Androgyny and Sexuality Compatible” in Mary Vetterling-Braggin’s “Femininity” “Masculinity” and “Androgyny” – A Modern Philosophical Discussion – Littlefield Adams & Co.).

Now happily retired from “the job,” he is doing what he always wanted to do since he wrote his first novel at ten in elementary school. It was one paragraph, three pages long and, although he didn’t know it at the time, it was alternate history. Since then, in addition to his academic writings in ethics, logic, and popular culture, he has published short stories in Hard Copies and Phoebe, a feature articles in Cinefex, film reviews for Video Update and both fiction and non-fiction books: an analysis of rock music, You Say You Want a Revolution: Rock Music in American Culture, a boring academic treatise, Critiquing Moral Arguments, a savagely satirical novel on America and its foibles, proclivities and propensities, Hitler the Cat Goes West, and an alternate history, science fiction novel, The Mission.

Most recently, he has updated and revised his book on rock music and it is being republished by McFarland & Co. as Rock Music in American Culture: The Sounds of Revolution. Alternate Dimensions Press has published A New Birth of Freedom: The Visitor, the first book of an alternate history/time-travel/first-contact science-fiction trilogy. The second of the three, The Translator, is soon to be released.

He swims daily, skis occasionally, cooks as an avocation, watches innumerable movies, collects rock and roll concert films, is an avid devotee of Maryland crabs and maintains a rarely visited blog filled with his social and political ravings. His favorite film is the original Hairspray; his favorite song is “A Day in the Life;” his favorite pizza is from the original Ledo Restaurant in College Park, MD; and he is a firm believer in the efficacy of “sex, drugs and rock and roll.” Somehow his family and friends put up with him.

*Disclaimer* A special thanks goes out to Nicole at Tribute Book Tours for a review copy of this book. It in no way influenced my review. You can discuss it here or join my facebook page and discuss it there.

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