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Tillabooks: Will's Book Blog

Sunday, June 01, 2008

Opening Atlantis by Harry Turtledove

Opening Atlantis by Harry Turtledove. New York: Roc, 2007. ISBN: 978-0-451-46174-2

This is another alternate history novel by Turtledove, the acknowledged master of the genre. He imagines a smallish continent, naturally named Atlantis, out in the middle of the Atlantic, sort of halfway between Europe and North America. He tells us the history of this land, from its initial discovery and settlement by Europeans in the 1450's, on down to about the time of the American Revolution, when the British and French fight for dominance of the island, as an adjunct to their American and European wars.

The story is as well-told as any Turtledove book. If you enjoy his style, you'll undoubtedly enjoy reading this book. But my essential reaction was, what's the point? I need more than just another lackadaisical idea to motivate me into reading Turtledove. When he asks INTERESTING alternate history questions, like “What if the South won the Civil War?” or “What if aliens invaded in the middle of World War II?” then I'm interested enough to follow the story for book after book.

But in this case, there's just a new land mass where there wasn't one before. No magical creatures live there, just different ones (kind of like Australia or Zanzibar). The island is uninhabited when Europeans get there, which is improbable in itself. Surely it would have been previously settled by indigenes from somewhere! People from the Americas, if nowhere else.

So, British, French and Spanish settlers colonize the island. There is an interregnum period in which pirates control the western half of the island, and have to be eradicated. Sad. Pirates are always more fun, if more dangerous, than regular society. And then the war for dominance, which the British win, of course. My ultimate reaction? So what? Why should I care? I don't care. So I won't be bothering with any sequels. Sorry Harry. You struck out with this one, so far as I'm concerned.

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  • I haven't read much Turtledove yet, but from what I've seen so far it really depends on the series as to whether it's worth reading or not. I can tell you, if you're interested that a seriously good alternate history set in America in the 1950s and 60s is A.K. Kuykendall's Conspirator's Odyssey. He blends fact and fiction so well it's hard to tell the difference, and creates an excellent read.

    By Blogger Ruth, at 6:45 PM  

  • Ruth,

    Thanks so much for your comment. I'll have to add Conspirator's Odyssey to my potential reading list. Unfortunately, there are already so many hundreds of books on that list that I can't promise if or when I'll get to it.

    I should also apologize for taking such a long time to approve your comment and letting it be posted. I was out of town for over two weeks, and didn't have my password with me, so I had no way to approve it.

    Thanks again for posting!


    By Blogger Will, at 8:07 PM  

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