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Tillabooks: Will's Book Blog

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

The Gladiator by Harry Turtledove

The Gladiator by Harry Turtledove. New York: Tor, 2007. ISBN: 978-0-7653-1486-4

I'm confused. This book is, as it says on the cover, “A Novel of Crosstime Traffic,” but on the title page it says: “Crosstime Traffic—Book Four.” According to my entry on The Disunited States of America, IT was Book Four. And indeed, Disunited States IS the fourth title listed in the series on the Harry Turtledove website. So why The Gladiator claims to be only Book 4, when it appears to me that it is Book 5, is indeed, confusing.

Oh well, who cares which number it is in the series? It's well worth reading, regardless of where it comes in the sequence, and since all of these books stand equally well on their own, it doesn't matter which order you read them in, or even if you read them all, or not.

According to the Turtledove website (which is not maintained by Turtledove, himself, incidentally),

This series will cover the adventures of the employees of Crosstime Traffic, an organization which makes its money by sending traders to various timelines to take advantage of the differences between the timelines. Each work will be set in a different timeline and focus on different characters. The protagonists in each story will be teenagers who must come to terms with their new environments.

For a description of some of the timelines already visited, read my blog entry on The Disunited States. I have yet to read In High Places, presumably Book 3. This book, whether four or five, involves a timeline in which the Soviet Union won the Cold War, instead of the other way around. The book's action is set in The People's Republic of Italy, and all of Europe, and even the United States, are under the domination of the Soviets.

Interestingly, the series description I quoted above is already out of date, since in this volume, the primary characters are a couple of teenagers who are native to this alternate reality, rather than teens visiting from the home timeline, as in previous volumes. So these teens don't need to “come to terms with their new environments,” but instead, having found out out about the alternate reality, they have to learn to deal with that knowledge, and the knowledge that a better, albeit also imperfect, way of life exists elsewhere.

Once again, the story is well written, the characters engaging, and the result is well worth reading. Recommended for fans of the series, and especially recommended for teens, although most adults will probably enjoy it too.


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