My Review of Robert Sobel’s “For Want of a Nail”.

So, I finally got around to actually reviewing an AH book, recently! Here’s what I wrote:

American business historian Robert Sobel had originally gotten the idea to write an alternate history work from Jeff Weinper, a former student of his who had perished in Vietnam, and, in the summer of 1971, got the opprotunity to actually write the book, while waiting for his next regular contract work. Sobel also got the idea to spoof real-world history tomes by inserting footnotes into the text and inventing dozens of fictional sources out of whole cloth; and thus For Want of a Nail(originally to be titled Scorpions in a Bottle) was born.[1]

For Want of a Nail diverges from our history in the year 1777, when the British under General John Burgoyne are able to win the Battle of Saratoga, and the American Revolution fails. Many of the surviving Patriots, however, decide to flee to Mexico(then known as New Spain), primarily settling in what was Texas in the real world. Andrew Jackson, who was the 7th President of the United States in our universe, ends up becoming the “Founding Father” of the new United States of Mexico in 1819. The British Colonies, meanwhile, are reorganized into the Confederation of North America in 1780, and gradually become more and more independent of the U.K. over time.

By the 1970s, global history has undoubtedly changed drastically: the C.N.A. is a surprisingly egalitarian nation-perhaps almost utopian in some aspects-while Mexico is a relatively backwards and troubled country. Also, elsewhere in the world, a still imperial Germany dominates Europe, Russia has fractured into several pieces, and Australia has a rather more prominent role on the world stage in its own way(and is the home of that world’s Robert Sobel).

So here’s my take:

What I Liked: This was one of the first alternate history works I had ever become familiar with, and I was honestly amazed by the level of worldbuilding Mr. Sobel was able to do here, and the footnotes & citations are so well done, one might think they came from a real history book, indeed!

What I Disliked: The only major thing I disliked is that the contrasts between the two main countries, the C.N.A. and U.S. of Mexico, which this story revolved around, could get a little ham-handed at times, in my view; for example, I did find it hard to believe that Mexican slavery could survive until the 1920s, while the C.N.A. elected an *African-American Governor-General in 1950.

My overall view: Despite a few flaws, For Want of a Nail still remains a true classic in the genre of alternate history, as it was one of the very first modern examples of its kind, and remains venerated by alternate history fans across the world even today. I would definitely recommend this book to anyone who is interested in this genre, as they may well wish to learn more about it after reading this book!

So, there you have it! Please note that my current reviewing process is in it’s early stages and is likely to be gradually refined over time. But hopefully it’s at least alright even now, though.

Also, if you’d like to buy this book yourself, you can click on this link here: For Want Of a Nail

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