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Tillabooks: Will's Book Blog

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

The Disunited States of America by Harry Turtledove

The Disunited States of America by Harry Turtledove. Series: Crosstime Traffic, Book 4. New York: Tor, 2006.

Turtledove is well-known for his alternate history stories. I've blogged 8 of them so far (see my science fiction index for the details). He must be enjoying this series, which gives him the opportunity to explore just about any kind of alternate history framework he can think up. The basic premise is the discovery of a method of traveling between alternate time lines.

The version of the U.S. that makes the discovery sets up portals between various alternate realities, and sends families, usually parents and one or two children, to set up trade between the lines. Anonymously, of course, as the visiting family attempts to blend in, and protects the secret of the real identity. The translation chamber is hidden in the basement, with palm locks, and self destruct modules built in should the natives ever get in.

Book one (Gunpowder Empire) explored a universe in which the Roman Empire still exists in the 20th century, but has only progressed to the level of primitive firearms. Book two (Curious Notions) visits a world where Germany under the Kaiser won World War I, invented the atomic bomb first, and dominates the world. I haven't read Book 3 (In High Places) yet, although it also came out in 2006. Book 4 involves a version of history in which the states never united, but are independent nations, never having adopted the Constitution, and are still operating under the Articles of Confederation.

In this story, Virginia and Ohio are at war, and a biological weapon, a disease, is released by Ohio against their neighbor. Our young crosstime traveler meets a nice girl visiting from California, but is stranded because of the plague. The story is well told; the premise intriguing, and the action entertaining, as is the case with pretty much all of Turtledove's books. His stuff may lean towards the formulaic, but the formula works, and keeps us turning the pages. The series is recommended for fans of the author, and will be enjoyed by adults, both young and old alike.

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