Civil War II by Dan Britain
Pinnacle Books, 1971
Price I paid: $1 + S&H
“Well, my adjutant just completed a nationwide inspection of the militia. They seem ready, but I’m still a bit concerned about the discipline,” Harvey said. “They’re eager young bucks, and they’ve been penned up a long time. I just hope we don’t have a blood orgy.”
“I’ll vouch for the readiness of the militia,” Abe Williams said quickly. “I’ve been in constant contact. They are ready. The only loose ends we have are political, and that we can work out by ear…”
“And my boys have been waiting for a month,” Ritter reported. “We’re gonna jerk old whitey apart at the seams! We’re zeroed in on air traffic control, gas mains, water supply, power plants, communications, the whole damn—”
“Great! Then I see no reason to change the battle order,” General Bogan declared. “We hit tonight!”
Warning: the following review contains references to racism and words often connotated with racism and it’s of a racist book from the seventies so if talking about racism bothers you, maybe you should stop reading reviews of cheap crappy science fiction on the Internet and go out and help do something about it.
This week’s selection is based on another recommendation from the esteemed Joachim Boaz over at Science Fiction Ruminations. He’s proven invaluable as a pointer to books that I probably wouldn’t have found otherwise. I had to order this one off Amazon, but fortunately it was only a dollar so it keeps with my cheap books theme.
Astute readers might remember that Joachim also recommended The Feminists to me some while ago. Civil War II wasn’t as hard to find, fortunately. What’s rather interesting, however, is that the books came out in the very same year from the same publisher. I guess Pinnacle was celebrating The Year of IT COULD HAPPEN TOMORROW in 1971.
Actually, though, it seems that Civil War II is a reprint of a 1968 book called Revolt!
What’s even more fascinating, however, is just who wrote this thing. Dan Britain, I’ve learned, is a pen name for none other than Don Pendleton, creator and usual writer of a series of man fantasy novels called The Executioner. In fact, old Executioner Mack Bolan is the grandaddy of ’em all, spawning in his wake such like-minded adventure series as The Destroyer and our very own favorite penetrator…The Penetrator.
So knowing all that, let’s delve into some really uncomfortable territory with a story of how “the blacks” take over.
Our hero in this case is a gentleman named Michael Winston. Winston is a governmental higher-up in charge of the rather euphemistically named Department of Urban Affairs. His job, more or less, is to keep the ghettos in line. See, the ghettos are where all the black people live now, with some exceptions. It’s segregation gone wild, it’s American Apartheid, it’s the far grim future of 1999.
The details of this future world are actually sort of fascinating in a dumb and unexplained kind of way. See, all the ghettos (now referred to as “towns”) are more or less reservations for black people, set up by the current president J. Humphrey Arlington as part of some kind of economic plan to get America back on track after a disastrous eighties and nineties. It’s made pretty clear that his intentions all along were the subjugation of all black people, but he managed to sneak it all in amid a plan that actually made America a really prosperous agrarian powerhouse.
Astonishingly enough, that plan did not in fact involve having the black people grow and pick all the food, either. Instead, they got forcefully relocated into places like Oakland and told, essentially, to fend for themselves.
So Winston’s job is to help them fend for themselves by visiting the “towns” and helping requisition the things they need. He’s one of the very few white people to ever visit them, and as such as set up a bit of a rapport with several influential leaders in the black communities.
While in Oakland on a routine visit, Winston becomes increasingly aware that something is very definitely up.
So he goes back to Washington. He tries to tell his boss about it and is ignored. He tries to tell the head of the FBI about it and is ignored. He forces his way into the White House and tries to tell the president about it. You guessed it, he’s ignored.
The running theme of ignorance is the most striking thing about this book. It’s not that the white people are just stupid, which of course they are, but it’s because they’re stupid and racist. Pretty much every last one of them. The president himself refers to the “Neegruhs” practically every sentence. So why do they refuse to believe Winston’s claim that a powder keg is about to go off in the ghettos? Well, that’s the part of the book that set my teeth on edge.
See, they couldn’t possibly be plotting something big like this because, well, they’re physically incapable. Or should I say mentally incapable. Yeah, everybody in the government ignores Winston’s claim because, well, black people are too stupid to ever pull off something of that magnitude. Even when the plan starts to kick off, everybody figures its part of a plot by the Chinese or somebody to throw them off their guard. There’s no way they could possibly have started all this by themselves. The revolutionaries’ constant efforts to actually get noticed and failing becomes a bit humorous in the end. Everyone’s eyes look everywhere but at what is actually going on.
What makes this all so wonderful in the end, though, is that they’re systematically proven wrong over the course of the next two hundred pages or so.
There actually isn’t much of a plot to this book, at least not in terms of struggle and rising tension and denouement. What it really and truly is is a list of really clever ways that whitey gets his comeuppance.
So first off we learn about the fact that not all the black people live in the ghettos. Some of them are out in the world serving as aides and maintenance workers and such for the white elite, particularly the ones in government. The majority of those out in the world are allowed to be because they look white. Maybe they’re partly white (called fractos in this book) or maybe they’re just light-skinned, but either way, they’re out and about and trusted.
What whitey doesn’t know is that the conspiracy goes really deep. So the first thing that happens is that all the gardeners and mechanics and cooks turn on their white masters and kill them in their sleep.
Boom, pretty much every governor of every state in the United States is killed overnight. The president’s cabinet is done likewise. Pretty much the only member of the executive branch left in America is the president himself.
And then the tanks start to roll out.
This part was probably the weirdest and I’m still struggling to understand it, but bear with me here. See, the entire military of the United States is black. With the exception of a few short-term militiamen, the entire army, navy, and air force are top to bottom black men.
The book basically tries to describe the reasoning for this as “to give them something to do.” See, the actual defensive military in this future is based mainly around a magnetic defense matrix that surrounds the entire country. If anybody tries to attack, it’s basically “shields up” and the country is safe. The conventional military is barely even a thing. That hasn’t stopped our heroes from amassing a great deal of otherwise decommissioned equipment and machinery in secret, just waiting to unleash it upon White America.
There’s a truly epic moment where a bunch of tanks are sitting on the White House lawn. This is immediately following the wave of assassinations and everybody’s convinced that the president is going to be next. A newscaster is detailing the situation, talking about our brave military men guarding the president in his hour of need, completely oblivious to the fact that they’re not guarding the White House but besieging it. True hilarity starts to arise when the camera flashes onto the flags on the tanks and the newscaster has a shocking revelation and just starts screaming THAT’S NOT THE AMERICAN FLAG! THAT’S NOT THE AMERICAN FLAG!
See, the flag of this revolution is a clenched black fist. You may have seen that coming.
While all this is going on, Winston is basically shuttling around the country trying to figure out how he can put a stop to all this. In the meantime we get a lot of his philosophising about how America has lost its soul, its gumption, its heart, and so forth. A particularly notable example is when he’s on a plane heading toward D.C. He’s met by a stewardess whose job is to have sex with him. It’s that kind of future. Service industry, right? Anyway, before they can do anything, she has to give him a pill that is an all-in-one prophylactic, sterilizer, and, um, performance enhancer. He says he doesn’t need it for the latter feature, but the terms of the stewardess/prostitute’s contract state that he’s got to take it for the first two. In the time between earth-shattering orgasms, he thinks to himself how awful it is to live in a world where men need a pill to get it up on a regular basis, and that this is a sign of the degradation of the true American spirit.
Meanwhile, the black folk, led by, and I’m not kidding, a guy named Abraham Lincoln Williams, are systematically destroying…well, not much actually. Their plan is actually one of strict restraint and conservative tactics. They’re not looking to topple America or kill whitey. They’re just sick and tired of more than two hundred years of systematic persecution and servititude that it became time for them to stand up and say they’re mad as hell and they’re not going to take it anymore. This isn’t a military coup or a terror campaign so much as a demand for equal rights under the law and the return of the Constitution.
Wow, not at all where I thought this book was actually going.
See, when I picked it up I thought it would be some kind of racist-unto-itself saga of the rise and consequent downfall of Black America. Sort of like The Feminists. The black folks would botch it and we’d return to the status quo. What we’ve got instead is an actual honest-to-god shout for freedom and democracy for everybody, white and black, as well as a cry for recognition as, well, human beings.
All throughout this book it turns out that the bad guys are, in fact, the white people.
Except for our hero, Winston, of course. See, at some point he comes to agree with the goals and ethics of this revolution and so sits around for a couple dozen pages while these goals and ethics are explained to us via him. In the end, he’s appointed head of the provisional government of the United States after President Arlington steps down.
Humorous side note: President Arlington says something about how he’s the first president to ever resign from office. Nixon resigned less than two years after this book came out. Ouch.
The plan goes really well for the revolutionaries throughout the mass of the book. Too well to be, you know, actually interesting. The exception to this is after they’ve basically gotten what they’ve wanted (the media comes out and decries the racist policies of President Arlington and recognizes Winston as the provisional head of the government) when things start to break down in—where else?—Mississippi.
The American South: ruining everything since 1776.
This is interesting, though. Things get out of hand because of problems on both sides of the equation. White people are basically acting like white southern people have always acted (there are some really cringe-worthy moments where people talk about locking up the women because, well, you know), but part of the breakdown is due to a lot of old grudges held by the black commander down there. In essence, we’re shown that the leaders of the black rebellion are not, in fact, all saintly Martin Luther Kings and Nelson Mandelas. They are, in point of fact, human beings with human motivations. They’re really pissed off, and justifiably so.
Still, this kind of thing can’t go on because the entire point of the uprising was that it cost as few lives as possible on both sides. The crisis and the book end when Winston sets off some low yield nuclear warheads in the atmosphere over the Gulf of Mexico and says, effectively, that if you don’t cut that crap out I’ll target Montgomery and Atlanta and Raleigh and so forth until you can’t help but cut that crap out because you’re radioactive cinders.
And then there’s an epilogue that states that in 2000 Winston was elected president and Abraham Lincoln Williams was made a senator. I kid you not, it basically says that Winston and Williams got America so back on track that it became a beacon of light and peace throughout the world and basically ended war and famine forever.
So what, exactly, did I just read? It was, in essence, the most racially progressive book I’ve read for this blog. And yet it was awful. Just awful. The writing, the plot, the characters, all awful. They were barely there, really. The book was just dripping with sexploitation, too. The grim future of 1999 saw to that. Prostitution is legal and so it happens about every thirty pages or so, in rather a lot of detail, until the actual story starts to kick in. At one point Winston “lowers himself onto a moistly heated welcome.” He’s not talking about a hot water bottle.
On the plus side, flying cars are commonplace and America has a magnetic net over it to keep out intruders. So that’s neat.
I feel like I didn’t get what I was promised, though. I was promised a “chilling novel of our second civil war.” I didn’t find the book especially chilling. I found it hilarious, mostly. There was no “racial doomsday.” It was just a bunch of people angry at some other people for denying them their rights for two centuries so they parked some tanks and took potshots at landmarks to make their point.
I wonder how someone in 1971 would have taken this book, though. I’m very curious how they would have felt when it became clear that this book had a more progressive agenda than “oonga boonga neegrahs take over America.” This book was marketed in a way that makes me think it was targeted at people with either prejudices or outright fear of black people, and yet the book itself constantly hammers home the point that the important word in “black people” isn’t “black” but “people.” I sort of admire it for that. This book was essentially a stealth call for civil rights.
But was that intentional, or just an accident based on a fearmongering publisher? Will we ever know?
4 thoughts on “Civil War II”
Wow. I do think it’s rather disturbing how the white people remain in power even after the rebellion and lead the country to a better future…. So yes, the white people are the racist ones but the good white people are still the natural leaders. Argh. The second I saw this cover I knew you’d want to review it! I’ll stay away….
That’s a good point about natural leadership. The book comments a few times on similar themes. It also basically says that a black person can’t take over immediately because the whites wouldn’t accept it yet.
But then our white hero goes and saves the world…
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So this is going to be a funny comment, but this review actually made me feel better.
See, I came looking for it not because I was all that keen on reading it – but because I’d seen my dad reading it more than once, saw the cover, checked the first couple pages, and went “Oh, shit – is my dad a racist?”
Well, he may not be very PC, but I’m glad to see that this isn’t some sort of bigot fest.
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Another cover I remember on the stands when it was new.
I also remember it sharing the shelves with several other paperbacks on the same premise, i.e. “Near-future Black-vs-White Race War”.
If you want to know what was really worrying people at a given time and place, READ THEIR DYSTOPIAS.
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