10 August 2017

Review: The Final War by Louis Tracy

Hardcover, 372 pages
Published 1896
Borrowed from my advisor
Read October 2013
The Final War: A Story of the Great Betrayal
by Louis Tracy

One of many pieces of 1890s future-war fiction I've read, this one is among the worst (I don't think it even has characters as such) but also the most influential. Along with Angel of the Revolution, it pretty much set the standard for the genre's form in the 1890s. France and Germany go to war with the world; reluctant Britain just has to conquer the world in order to save it, allying itself with the United States. The U.S. and the U.K. might seem as though they're in opposition at times, but really they're united by blood, history, language, feeling, character, and destiny. Eventually even the Germans sign on board: they're good Saxons, after all. The Final War is racial in the extreme. The moral superiority of the Anglo-Saxons stems from their military superiority which stems from their technological superiority. Because an Englishman invents the electric rifle, Britain wins the global war and therefore assumes control over all. That's just survival of the fittest, which is Darwin, which is science, and you can't argue with science, can you? Also it's the Divine Will. So basically everyone in the world is cool with the British takeover, because, hey, they're evolutionarily superior, and at least they're not French or Russian. The success of races was from Greek to Roman to Saxon: the Greeks were the Age of Art, the Romans the Age of Law, and now it's the Age of Science.

Anyway, this is basically the distilled version of everything George Griffith ever wrote, but considerably less fun-- there are no air-ships, no sexy princesses, no exciting battle sequences, no sexual thrill of complete obliteration, just banal war narrative and racism.

The original cover (1896, Pearson) is pretty swank, though. Love that little embossed bomb smoking.

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