Friday, February 24, 2012

Review: "The End of Texas" by Juan Batista

Grade: F
The End of Texas by Juan Batista is 175-page e-book that is more counterfactual essay than alternate history.  Originally it cost $9.99, but complaints on Alternate History Online caused Batista to decrease the price to $4.99.  The cost is still too high considering that this novel embodies many of the flaws inherent in self-published works of alternate history.


Following a long introduction where Batista presents a revisionist history of Texas, Batista discusses a scenario where Governor Rick Perry's  infamous 2009 pro-secession speech is slightly modified.  The alternate speech inspires the Texas independence movement, largely made up of violent militia types, to push through a vote for secession on the next ballot.  In response, a counter-secession movement grows among the liberal and Mexican regions of Texas that take advantage of a loop hole in the Joint Resolution for Annexing Texas to the United States to form new states from Texas.  Perry, thinking he has nothing to fear, allows them to hold their conventions and watches in horror as the new liberal states emerge and change the outcome of the health care debate.


Adelsverein was a planned, but failed, state.in the novel.
Batista's message is clear: conservatives are ruining Texas and it is in liberal Texans best interest to get out.  The problem, however, is that the message is spelled out early on in the overly-long introduction instead of allowing the plot to make that message clear.  The rest of the novel tries to have a Greenfield-esque format, with dialogue shuffled with news clippings and speeches, but at times degenerates into a liberal rant full of info dumps.  Batista overuses words like "racist" and "bigot" to describe the new states' opponents and historical Texans, but does not use the terms fairly.  For example, at one point he brushes off criticism of Chicano nationalist groups being racist in their ideology by saying that being Mexican is not a race, yet uses the term "racist" to describe those who direct hate speech at Mexicans.

Batista makes a lot of generalized statements about Texan and American culture, without always backing them up with sources.  As an attorney, I also noticed that he misunderstood American law, including the constitutional right of travel and the supremacy of federal drug laws.  Probably the worst offense, however, is what happens after the new states come into being.  The new state governments each pass a liberal agenda and evolve into better places than the one they left.  This seems to much like utopianism to be a plausible alternate history.  In many ways The End of Texas is the liberal version of Ball's New Frontier.  In this case it is the liberal who have the right of way and the conservatives who are ruining America.  In reality both novels are wrong, history rarely offers a simple solution to our problems.

If I can say one thing good about The End of Texas it is that Batista points out a major misconception that authors wanting to write a balkanized North America should take notice of.  An individual American state is rarely homogeneous and if you do write a timeline where America breaks into different pieces, remember to do your research on the cultures that reside within your new nation.  That fact, however, is not enough for me to recommend this novel.


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Mitro is founder, editor and contributor of Alternate History Weekly Update. When he is not busy writing about his passion for alternate history, he spends his time working as a licensed attorney in the state of Illinois and dreams of being a published author himself one day.

4 comments:

  1. Open bias - check.
    No cover image at all - check.
    Lopsided price/content ratio for an indie - check.
    Badly edited product description (it lacks an indefinite article) - check.

    Examples like the one above piss me off as both a reader and a writer.

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  2. All written work (and the individuals who write it) are biased. Anyone who thinks otherwise is kidding themselves.

    Mitrovich's opinion is honest, and for that I respect the review. As I told him in an email, my biggest fear was that the novel is so specialized it may be difficult for those outside of Texas to follow. Thus the admittedly overlong introduction to try and explain to non-Texans some matters which Texans already know.

    Ironically, he concedes at the end of his review the main point of my entire novel. Anyone with a John Wayne view of Texas could not be more wrong. What is strange, though, is his claiming I did not understand right of travel laws when in fact there is not the slightest mention of them in the book. Even stranger is his claiming that a state legalizing certain drugs would be overturned automatically by federal law. (Someone better tell Oregon.) But the strangest of all is claiming I wrote the new states become utopias. Not at all, simply somewhat better off that before.

    I will place his critique, and the shallow comments by wb, in context next to the Like comments my book has received online.

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  3. The right to travel comment applied to the use of tolls in the new states to discourage people from moving out of them. Tolls can be used to pay for the construction and maintenance of roads, but not to discourage people from leaving a state.

    Meanwhile, federal drug laws trump any state laws, thats why federal agents will often raid and arrest places that hand out pot even for medicinal reasons that are allowed by states. The policies enacted by the new states would likely not hold up in court as described in the novel.

    As for the utopia comment, obviously we have a difference of opinion. I will leave it up to readers to decide who was right. I also accept everyone's opinion on Weekly Update and would not mind posting another reviewer's review on your novel if it should present the novel in a better light. I find that more than fair since it is entirely possible for me to be wrong.

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  4. Forgot to add this:

    Yes, all authors are biased and often write a story with a specific message they are trying to get across. A good story, however, will have that message delivered by the characters and the plot and the author will avoid making mention of it directly. This is done to avoid lecturing to the audience, which most readers do not enjoy.

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