Monday, February 4, 2013

Visit the Past to Save the Future with Robert G. Pielke

It's time to take a step back, travel through time to visit Gettysburg and the Civil War era in Robert G. Pielke's alternate-history, science-fiction novel, A New Birth of Freedom:  The Translator.  If you're a history buff like me, you need to hop on board the train as we leave the station.

Book Summary:
Noam Chomsky argues that communication with aliens would be impossible. Stephen Hawking argues that it would be extremely unwise even to try. What if it were absolutely necessary to do so? This question arises with extreme urgency at the Battle of Gettysburg in 1863, in this time-travel, alternate-history trilogy, A New Birth of Freedom.

My Review:
First off, I want to say that I enjoyed reading this second book in the trilogy.

It's July, 1863, and Edwin Blair is writing in his journal with a pale, pink fluid, unusual compared to a standard dark inkwell.  Mr. Blair has taken up residence in Gettysburg alongside key participants in President Lincoln's entourage.  Though his memories are mucked up and unclear, Mr. Blair has successfully convinced Lincoln that he is a time-traveler from three hundred years in the future.

His presence in the past?  Key to saving his future and the future of the entire earth from invading alien "Pests".  If only he could remember what he sent himself here to accomplish - and why he brought some of the hateful, murdering Pests with him.

Blair constantly suffers from horrific headaches and nightmares, clashing like a thunderbolt in his brain as changes to the past conflict with what he knows should be future events.  By all means, he knows he must avoid creating a cataclysmic paradox, thus endangering his own future existence.  Plus he cannot risk providing too much information about future events to Lincoln and his team - especially about one particular actor.  The minor clues he attempts to leave himself for future reference create chaos and suspicion from the Civil War participants, not to mention the ten-foot tall gathering of insectoids under close guard. 

More than anything, Blair wants to kill off the murdering invaders, but knows he cannot avoid a future that has already occurred.  Thus some must survive.  His best bet is to attempt communication with his prisoners via Indian sign language and drum signals.  However, communication is exhausting with little tangible information - until the right men show up for the job.

Again, overall A New Birth of Freedom:  The Translator  was an intriguing and enjoyable read for a history buff like me.  I enjoyed Mr. Pielke's portrayal of Lincoln, Pinkerton, and the rest of the historical characters, their quirks and mannerisms that made them very human instead of merely stiff caricatures.

However, I would have loved seeing more activity involving the historical events that were only referenced in the novel.  There was little action of any sort, only battles and skirmishes skimmed over in discussion among the characters after said events had reportedly occurred.  There was even a reference near the end of the book when Blair took Lincoln forward in time, but we didn't get to experience the build-up to it, merely a back discussion between Blair and Lincoln after the event. 

The majority of the story surrounded the constant headaches experienced by Blair and his internal musings about why he couldn't remember certain things.  I felt the novel could have been tightened up and a good portion of these repetitive musings deleted.  They just didn't propel the story forward but more bogged it down.

Also, not having read the first book in this series, there was no description of the Pests until about halfway through the book.  I suspected here and there that they were some sort of insect-type creature along the lines of a grasshopper about a third of the way through, but it would have helped tremendously to have had a description of them up front in this second book. 

Lastly, there was nothing that brought the events from the first book forward into the second book, the reasoning behind the trip back in time, why the Pests needed to accompany Blair to Gettysburg (or if they did so or that it was more that Blair followed them), etc.  This left me with a considerable lack of purpose to the fictional events that transpired.  I understand the ambiguity of Blair having trouble remembering certain things between his two-plus realms of consciousness, but it would have given more meaning to the story to at least have had him spend some of his musings trying to establish a semblance of purpose to this particular visit other than just the overarching idea of saving the world in his time.

My copy also contained numerous grammatical, transposition and punctuation errors, but this may have been cleaned up prior to the published work.  This isn't your standard science-fiction or thriller fare of battles and against-all-odds stakes, but it ended up being a nice read in relation to the history and the ramifications of time-travel paradoxes.  A read of the first book may clear up many of the questions and concerns contained herein.  Then "seeing" the historical characters portrayed as living, breathing human beings was quite enjoyable.  Therefore, I still recommend A New Birth of Freedom:  The Translator.

To read an excerpt, visit this link:

Follow the Tribute Books blog tour at

Robert G. Pielke's Bio:
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. 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.

His academic writings have been in the area of ethics, including a boring academic treatise called Critiquing Moral Arguments, logic, and popular culture. Included in the latter is an analysis of rock music entitled You Say You Want a Revolution: Rock Music in American Culture. He has also published short stories, feature articles, film and restaurant reviews. His novels include 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, which is being republished by McFarland & Co.

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.  Visit his website at

Prices/Formats: $16.95 paperback, $4.99 ebook
Pages: 394
ISBN: 9781611605426
Publisher: Whiskey Creek Press
Release: November 1, 2012

Amazon paperback buy link ($16.95):

Whiskey Creek Press paperback buy link ($16.95):

Kindle buy link ($4.99):

Nook buy link ($4.99):

Whiskey Creek Press ebook buy link ($4.99):


  1. D A, as a history buff, I'm delighted that you enjoyed Bob's sci-fi spin on the Civil War. Thanks for the review.

  2. Very interesting premise, that's for sure. Time travel presents alot of issues to consider! Thank you for including me on this leg of the tour.

  3. Hi DA,

    Thanks for your comments!

    And you are certainly correct -- readers of book two alone will miss a lot of the background and action. [I've always regarded a "trilogy" as being like a three-act-play. If you come in on Act Two, there's a penalty to pay.] :-)

    Bob Pielke

  4. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to read Act Two. :-) It was fun!