American Meteor

Written by Norman Lock
Review by Jeanne Greene

April 1865. Private Stephan Moran, 18, bugler for the 173rd New York, loses one eye through carelessness with his gun. For this, he receives an unearned Medal of Honor, personal thanks from General Ulysses Grant, and a job as trumpeter on the funeral train carrying Abraham Lincoln’s body home.

Stephen, who is in and out of trouble, says he’s “good for nothing but murder and love.” He has a talent for making powerful friends like Grant, Walt Whitman, and William Durant. The vice president of the Union Pacific gives him a cushy railroad job—and an opportunity to watch manifest destiny in action.

In Utah, when the last spike is driven in the transcontinental railroad—as staged for official photos—Stephen is shocked by the treatment of Chinese laborers. In Montana, he meets Crazy Horse and witnesses the battle at Little Big Horn. Each time he encounters willful malevolence, Stephen seems to change. He develops what seem like modern sensibilities—in the 19th century.

It is not a spoiler to say he has special gifts—readers not already familiar with Lock’s novels will be alerted early on. Stephen knows from personal experience how man’s tendency to live for the moment affects future generations, but he attributes his perspicacity to vivid dreams. Lock calls American Meteor a story that needs to be heard by a new generation of Americans. It is not only a history lesson but also a reading pleasure.