The Last Full Measure
by Jack Campbell
Cover Artist: David Palumbo
Review by Jon Guenther
Subterranean Hardcover ISBN/ITEM#: 9781596065680
Date: 30 June 2013 List Price $20.00 Amazon US / Amazon UK
Unlike some of those other alternate history works, Campbell immediately engaged me with the story of Professor Joshua Chamberlain, a man sentenced by a kangaroo court for crimes against a transformed America. Standing alongside Chamberlain is Abraham Lincoln, portrayed in this nation under the rule of elite plantation owners deftly portrayed as tyrannical fascists. Through a series of mishaps and coincidental circumstance, Chamberlain is soon thrown into a full-blown war between these elite power-mongers and a northern rebellion. Under the leadership of familiar names like Longstreet, Armistead, Hancock, and other Civil War figures, Chamberlain takes on the mantel of military leadership to do battle against those bent on destroying the Constitution.
It's noteworthy that many giants in the Golden Age of science fiction, as well as their successors, have pointed out satire as a mainstay of good speculative fiction. It would seem Mr. Campbell has perhaps taken that axiom to heart, as this book is filled with it--a fact that will become crystal clear to anyone familiar with the political and military histories of America. This was one factor that made the book largely enjoyable.
As to cons, the one that really surfaced for me was Mr. Campbell's occasional lapse into political rhetoric positing conservative viewpoints. While I hold to many of these ideals, I felt now and again it seemed a bit preachy. The author seemed intent on sprinkling the text with his own views, although I would not necessarily fault it entirely on that count. Good authors must often "take a side" in a book and of course this author does so by taking the side of his protagonists. I would never declare that to do so in a novel that has good vs. evil as its core theme to be a literary foible.
In summary, I overall enjoyed the book and declare it a solid piece of fiction. Mr. Campbell is certainly a seasoned entertainer and on that count he excelled. I found The Last Full Measure great entertainment that in nowise suffered from bloat from which I've seen other comparative books suffer.
One noteworthy point: Subterranean Press has listed this deluxe hardcover edition at 104 pages and an estimated retail of $20.00. I mention this only because it might be a consideration for some readers. However, it appears they could be marketing this more as a collectors' edition, which might explain the somewhat hefty price. I declare for die-hard fans of Jack Campbell, it's probably worth it.