We have emerged mud-soaked, emotionally drained, spiritually hungover, and yet somehow alive after 14 pages of BATTLE OF THE CRATER. Just kidding! We’re actually enjoying it so far (which is admittedly weird), but here’s a run-down of what’s happening in Newtonia so far after three full chapters.
The book’s prologue starts out with this very intense scene in which a bunch of Union soldiers nobly and melodramatically charge into some Rebel fire in 1864. Sensing that they are doomed, but being unwilling to disobey their officer’s orders, the Union soldiers start baa-ing baa-ing like sheep to voice their outrage over the orders. That part was sort of like: “really? You really think Union soldiers would make sheep noises going into their certain deaths?” As in, led like sheep to the slaughter sort of meta-commentary on the war. Then again, Newt has a PhD in American history, and it seems like he wouldn’t make up something like that. And yet it seems so totally implausible that a group of tough, tired soldiers would act so weirdly? If it didn’t happen, why include something so hard to believe and kind of distracting. If it did happen — if the soldiers did make sheep noises going into battle — then, well, shit. That’s some heavy stuff.
The next two chapters feature General Grant, President Lincoln, and other “real” historical figures. Lincoln, as characterized in this book, is a cyborg sent back from the future in order to protect a young boy named John Connor to–no, wait, we’re getting sidetracked here. Lincoln seems okay so far. “Normal” seeming, makes passing references to Mary Dodd his ball-and-chain, etc. The main “character,” as far as we can tell is Irishman James Reilly who is a cartoonist for Harper’s magazine, covering the war. He’s likeable enough (he’s a classically drunk Irishman, emotional, testy, and fiercely loyal to Lincoln). His story seems to be the novelist’s playground, the creative piece amidst the historically factual elements.
What is the “plot” of BATTLE OF THE CRATER? Well, winning the Civil War maybe? Otherwise, there aren’t any, like, love interests or mysteries or anything exactly. If we had to give the book a letter grade so far (after three chapters), we would probably give the book an F. What?!? No, no, that’s far too critical: let’s say the BATTLE OF THE CRATER written by Newt Gingrich and some other guy gets a C+ so far. Let the carnage continue!