A alternate-history/fantasy novel, this book combines Custer,
Jules Verne, and dinosaurs to make a great page-turner. General,
now President, Custer allows his son, George Jr., a captain in
the Army, to fly an experimental dirigible over Indian territory.
The dirigible crashes, killing all the crew except George, who
is taken captive by the Cheyenne Alliance. President Custer still
harbors a hatred of Indians, and instructs his men to rescue his
son and eliminate the Cheyenne, opening the territory for settlement.
But one Cheyenne woman, Speaks While Leaving, has had a vision
in which George, now called One Who Flies, will be the savior
of the Cheyenne, and, together, they stop the attack. George is
incensed that the Army would attack innocent women while pretending
to negotiate with the men, and plans a daring raid on Washington,
D.C., taking the Cheyenne and their dinosaurs right up to the
Capitol building. President Custer is ready to wash his hands
of his son, and, up until the last page, is disappointed that
George has joined the Cheyenne. The fact that the Cheyenne use
dinosaurs as transportation and weapons (I think they are Tyrannosaurus
that have been tamed somewhat) is a bit of a surprise at the start,
but you soon get swept up in the action. George Jr. is a likeable
character, and the Cheyenne are portrayed in an intelligent manner.
Alternate history fans will love this book.
© KLIATT. All rights
The Year the Cloud Fell will please not only SF and fantasy fans,
but also lovers of historical and revisionist Western fiction.
In 1886, the U.S. Army experimental dirigible A. Lincoln is making
a scouting flight above the Unorganized Territory when a terrific
thunderstorm strikes the craft to earth. Now the mission commander,
the president's only son, is a prisoner of the Cheyenne Alliance.
The Indians have no reason to love the president, the implacable
enemy they call Long Hair: General George Armstrong Custer. And
only the strange shamanic vision of one young Cheyenne woman stands
between Captain George Armstrong Custer Jr. and death.
With his debut novel, Kurt R.A. Giambastiani has created a fast-paced,
imaginative, intelligent alternate history with a bold, breathtaking
climax. The Year the Cloud Fell has "gotta" quality,
as in "Honey, I'm coming right to bed, but first I just gotta
finish this chapter." The novel ends conclusively, yet it
also leaves the door open for a sequel that readers will eagerly
Unfortunately, whites who create historical fiction
or movies about American Indians often end up producing a sort
of noble-savage porn, and alternate history provides more possibilities
than any other fiction for a simplistic approach to white/Indian
interactions. However, Giambastiani has avoided such pitfalls.
The Year the Cloud Fell provides no easy answers, noble-savage
stereotypes, great-white-father saviors, or clichéd situations.
Bravo. —Cynthia Ward
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