The Plot

(Critical Survey of Science Fiction and Fantasy)

Bring the Jubilee has become a classic in the alternate-history subgenre of science fiction. The bulk of the novel is set in an alternate world years after the South won the American Civil War. This first-person memoir begins with young Hodge Backmaker leaving his backwater hometown for New York City in 1938. Life in the twenty-six United States is hard. The War of Southron Independence, as the Civil War is known, has financially and spiritually crushed the North. Backmaker outlines an unfamiliar world in which the telegraph and gaslight are the norm, the wealthy own steam-driven “minibles” instead of automobiles, and the lower classes sell themselves into indentured servitude. The strong Confederate States stretch south from the Mason-Dixon line into Mexico. Even the European landscape differs. Napoleon VI rules France, and Germany is known as the German Union.

After losing everything he owns to muggers on his first night in New York, Backmaker falls in with Roger Tyss, a bookseller and anti-Confederate revolutionary. Tyss gives Backmaker a job in his bookstore. Backmaker spends several years there, reading as much as he can and learning to think and study. He befriends René Enfandin, consul for the Republic of Haiti, who is an oddity in New York because he is black. Backmaker is crushed when Enfandin is shot and seriously wounded, forcing his return to Haiti.

At the age of twenty-three, Backmaker decides to leave the bookstore....

(The entire section is 521 words.)