No one is hotter right now than Abraham Lincoln. From Daniel Day-Lewis' award-winning portrayal of the sixteenth president in Stephen Spielberg's motion picture to his fabled visage appearing in commercials for the 2013 Lincoln town car, Honest Abe is back on the radar of the cultural zeitgeist. As the nation celebrates one of its most beloved presidents this month, science fiction author Robert G. Pielke returns with his own spin on this American icon.
In The Translator, the second installment of his time traveling trilogy, A New Birth of Freedom, Pielke continues to humanize a figure often cloaked in legend. With dialogue steeped in the colloquialisms of the Civil War era, he skillfully demonstrates how Lincoln might have dealt with an alien invasion. A literary exercise that is daring for both the author and the reader. Pielke's depiction of Lincoln's thought processes - on how he might shrewdly coax the United States out of such a predicament - is truly entertaining and enlightening.
Lincoln is bombarded on both fronts. He is waging war against the Confederacy while coping with the unexpected arrival of these extraterrestrial lifeforms at the battlefield of Gettysburg. Yet he takes this new development in stride, launching into fable-like memories from his past, in order to keep his staff at ease. Ironically, his worries about General Robert E. Lee become secondary in importance. In fact, the two sides will have to work together in order to save the planet. Lincoln says, "Each one of us wanted to destroy the other, but neither one of us got what we wanted. It remains to be seen what will happen in the long run..."
And that's where things get tricky for Pielke as a storyteller - the implicit Catch-22 scenario that lies at the heart of time travel. If events are changed in the past, they irrevocably distort the future. And that's where Pielke's protagonist, Edwin Blair, comes into play. He's a visitor from the twenty-third century attempting to rid his world of the 'Pests.' But if he stops them with Lincoln's help in 1863, will he be terminating his own existence, as well as theirs, in the future? It's a tricky line to plot as a writer, and Pielke deftly manages the monumental task. The dilemma of right and wrong bleeds through the novel at every turn, and Pielke guides the reader through Edwin Blair's moral dilemmas. And who better to advise him than the Great Emancipator?
For those invested in Pielke's series, book two does not disappoint. Instead, the journey is interconnected with the power of language, and the ability to communicate with one's adversary. The Translator provides a message relevant for any part of American history, and Pielke interweaves this theme brilliantly through the creation of his 'Pest' motif, since it is only through shared conversation that understanding of any kind can take place. And sometimes it's the messages to oneself that become the most important of all.