THE VALLEY-WESTSIDE WAR BY HARRY TURTLEDOVE

Standard
Copyright 2008.

Liz Mendoza is an 18-year-old who accompanied her parents to an alternate that destroyed itself in a nuclear war in 1967. Her parents got a grant from UCLA to study why this war started. They live in the Westside which is its own little country. The Westside gets into a war with its neighbor the Valley over blocking the Sepulveda Pass. The Valley wins because they were able to find a working .50 cal. machine gun. Now Liz has to deal with one of the Valley soldiers who has taken an interest in her. The family has to deal with spies from the Westside government in exile and the occupation soldiers of the Westside.

The final book in the Crosstime series is my favorite. For one thing it deals with a post-nuclear apocalypse which is my favorite type of books. This one has plenty of action that the others lacked. I love that everyone still talks like hippies such as “far out” and “groovy”. The society is a realistic portrayal of a post-nuclear world. It is on a level of the medieval times with its various petty little kingdoms. Technology is lacking as everyone scrounges for leftovers in the ruins.

I enjoyed this series. It had some weird stuff like Turtledove’s thing for portraying that everyone in the future has a serious aversion to fur. Granted fur is a dead industry nowadays but I don’t think the young even today give fur any thought. Just one of the things he decided was something hip. I also wonder if it appealed to the target teen audience or just older alternate history buffs like me. The series was solid with some plausible alternate histories that were portrayed realistically. If you like Turtledove or alternate history this is a good series for you.

THE GLADIATOR BY HARRY TURTLEDOVE

Standard
Copyright 2007.

Teenagers Gianfranco and Annarita know each other because their families share an apartment. This is common practice in the Milan of the Italian Socialist Republic. This is normal in an alternate where the Soviet Union won the cold war. Now all the world follows Marxism-Leninism-Stalinism. Life in this alternate is fairly unexciting. Annarita belongs to the Young Socialist League with hopes of getting into university when she graduates. Gianfranco has no ambition and probably will end up like his father, a minor government apparatchik. He has found one thing that interests him. A new store called The Gladiator that sells games. One in particular, Rails Across Europe has become an obsession. A strategy game where you play a 19th century capitalist and build a railroad empire. One day the security police shut the shop down for its accused counterrevolutionary ideas. A man named Eduardo comes to Gianfranco and Annarita for help. They find out he is from an alternate where Communism didn’t win. Now they have to hide him from the security police and help him find a way home.

This entry in the series deals with a world where Communism won. A change of pace is to have both teenage characters be from this world. We get to see through their eyes growing up in a Communist society. A society where petty bureaucrats rule and everything is stagnant. Crosstime Traffic is shown to have as in the last book as being somewhat interested in changing societies in the alternates. This one they tried to introduce new ideas through games. It seems to have some effect. Gianfranco learns so much from the games he improves his grades in school. In fact, he becomes somewhat of a radical revolutionary. Turtledove gives us a good idea of that it was like to grow up in these socialist countries. I found it an enjoyable read and another solid entry in the Crosstime Traffic series.

THE DISUNITED STATES OF AMERICA BY HARRY TURTLEDOVE

Standard
Copyright 2006.

Becky Royer accompanies her grandmother back to Virginia. Her grandmother is originally from the state and wants to visit relatives. Yet in this alternate the Constitution never replaced the Articles of Confederation. So, the country broke up into many independent states. Becky finds Viriginia much more backward than her native state of California. She especially doesn’t care for how they treat their blacks. Then a war breaks out between Viriginia and Ohio. Ohio releases an engineered plague on Virginia and Becky is trapped in the little town of Elizabeth on the border.

She does make friends with another teen from Charleston named Justin. Justin was with his uncle and visiting doing business. Justin though has a secret. He is from Crosstime Traffic and the coin and stamp shop is a front. Things start to really deteriorate when the blacks rise up in revolt. Justine steals a Virginia soldier’s uniform to get him back to Charleston. Only he gets caught up in the black revolt as Becky with her grandmother also arrives in the city.

This entry in the Crosstime Traffic series is probably the best yet. A fascinating idea to have a future where the United States broke apart into many different independent states. We don’t get much about this world, but it is made up of many different smaller nations. There was a WWI called the Great War but no WWII. Prussia a one of the powers and apparently westward settlement continued in spite of there being no federal government. California and Texas are both fairly powerful states. Mississippi had a black revolution and that is a black nation. All the other southern states have no civil rights for the blacks and face periodic revolts. Also, war between them is common.

I thought that this book really had some character development for the main character. Justin has to actually fight and kill people to survive which makes the adventure some much more realistic. We find out that Crosstime Traffic also tries to make more positive changes in the alternates that they operate in. They back moderate political parties to try and change the current status quo. Also, this the first where the teen from the alternate never really finds out about the home timeline and travels there. They also monitor more advanced alternates like this one to sabotage any development of alternate travel technology from developing. A fun and exciting book.

IN HIGH PLACES BY HARRY TURTLEDOVE

Standard
Copyright 2006.

Annette Klein is a teenager from Ohio about to start college. She spends her summer with her parents in an alternate for Crosstime Traffic. This alternate is one where the Black Plague wiped out over 90% of Europe. The place is still in the medieval ages. She and her family pose as traders from the Kingdom of Marseille. In this timeline the Muslims still control Spain and southern France and Italy. Going under the name Khadija she poses as a rich Muslim trader in the northern Christian kingdom of Versailles. She also makes a friend in Jacques a young seventeen-year-old in the army of the Duke of Paris.

On the caravan south they are attacked by slavers. Annette and Jacques are taken to Madrid and sold to a wealthy merchant. Only this merchant has a sinister secret. He is from Annette’s timeline and is running an illegal slaving operation. Annette and Jacques are transported to another alternate where Rome never conquered Spain. Here the renegade operation is run to give rich people a chance to lord it over others. They brutally kill the locals for fun. Annette finally gets her chance to escape when she realizes that some of these rich tourists are paying for the privilege of being a slave. She manages to convince the guards that she is one of these people and get back to the home timeline. Then she exposes the whole operation and rescues the slaves.

This book has an interesting twist to the idea. The main characters have to deal with criminals from the home timeline. I can see the whole setup as happening. I am sure there are some very rich and shallow people all for paying some money to be a slave master or a slave. There are some weird people in the world. Once again, a teenage boy and girl are the main protagonists. We get to see the whole operation through their eyes with the perspective of a modern woman and one that comes from a society where slavery is normal. Also has some interesting alternates. The medieval one has developed a second son of God. Henri a Frenchman was broken on the wheel for preaching the Final Testament and now they use the sign of the wheel as a holy symbol. A nice new take on the series.

CURIOUS NOTIONS BY HARRY TURTLEDOVE

Standard
Copyright 2004.

Paul Gomes has graduated High School and works with this father for Crosstime Traffic. His assignment is an alternate where Germany won WWI. They eventually went on to develop the atom bomb and conquer America in 1956. Now 140 some years later they rule America and the world with an iron fist. Crosstime Traffic runs a shop called Curious Notions in San Francisco. They sell electronic record players and games. The devices are just slightly better than what is available, and they use the money to buy much needed food for the home timeline.

The Germans in this alternate have similar advanced technology but keep it from others to hold them back. The Imperial German occupation authorities start to take an interest in these more advanced items. They want to know where they come from. The father says China and randomly picks a merchant in Chinatown out as the supplier. Lucy Woo a sixteen-year-old who works at a sweatshop gets involved when her father is arrested by the Germans. She joins forces with Paul Gomes to help their fathers and also have to deal with the Tongs. The Tongs are also interested in Curious Notions and hope to get technology that can help China to a more prominent level.

The second in the Crosstime Traffic YA series gives us a look at what the world would look like if the Germans won WWI. This is a much more plausible world if the Schlieffen Plan worked as it should have. A world without Hitler but one that is still pretty grim. America a defeated nation with 12 cities destroyed by atomic bombs. It is stuck in the 1950’s economically, culturally and technologically. Turtledove does a good job of giving us a look at the world with child labor and 65-hour six-day work weeks. As with the standard format it gives us a teenage boy and girl. This time ones that have a romantic involvement. This one deals with the added tension of keeping alternate travel out of the hands of a society that is technologically advanced enough to understand and use it. I found this an interesting and tension filled book. Different from the first book but no less interesting.

GUNPOWDER EMPIRE BY HARRY TURTLEDOVE

Standard
Copyright 2003

It is the end of the twenty-first century, and the world was in serious trouble. Resources were running low and then a miracle happened. Two scientists discovered a way to travel between alternate realities. A huge megacorporation known as Crosstime Traffic was formed to trade with the alternates. Jeremy Solter is a teenager in Los Angeles whose family works for Crosstime Traffic. Every summer his parents and sister go to an alternate to trade. The alternate they go to is in a reality where the Roman empire never fell. Posing as traders in the city of Polisso in Dacia province or what is modern Romania, they trade huge watches, straight razors and Swiss army knives for grain. During one of their stays, the mother gets a burst appendix, and the parents go back to their time. Soon after they lose contact with the home timeline. To make matters worse the neighboring empire of Lietuvan or modern Lithuanian decide to invade. They lay siege to the city, and it looks like Jeremy and his sister could be killed or enslaved in this alternate.

Harry Turtledove known for alternate history decided to get in the YA novel business. His Crosstime Traffic series is basically that. It usually involves two teens a boy and girl. Either brother and sister or boyfriend/girlfriend having adventures in an alternate timeline. The first book does a good job of setting up the premise for the series. A teen brother and sister have adventures in a world where Rome conquered Germany and settled into a bureaucratically static empire. Except for gunpowder and muskets and cannons they haven’t advanced in technology. This world is run by a few Gunpowder Empires that have wars for provinces now and then. The two get trapped because Romanian nationalists launched a biological terrorist attack on Crosstime Traffic sites in their home timeline. Naturally they eventually get home.

This book does a good job of showing what life was like in ancient Rome. The ordinary customs and how they lived gives a nice little education with the story. You even get old Roman jokes. Like, “‘That Slave you sold me died yesterday,’ a man told a halfwit. The halfwit said, ‘By the gods, he never did anything like that when I owned him!'” Yes, the humor just doesn’t translate well for the modern era.

WINGMAN #16 THE TOMORROW WAR BY MACK MALONEY

Standard
Copyright 1999.

Hawk Hunter has successfully dropped the atomic bomb on Honshu Island. This bomb was so big it literally sunk the island. Fortunately that island in this universe was cleared of civilians and only the military were killed. Naturally this ends the war but the B-2000 has disappeared. So Agent Y mounts an expedition to find the fate of the plane. On a huge amphibious transport they fly to the Pacific. Along the way they hire some air mercs and steal an aircraft carrier from some pirates. The trail takes them to Vietnam where they help out some French mercs and find clues including an aircraft that the B-2000 was carrying. The trail takes them into Thailand where they find that Hunter and crew abandoned their bomber for a train. This train takes them to Afghanistan.

In this world Afghanistan was colonized by the British and retains a very distinct British culture. A civil war is being fought between the Reds and the Blues. The Blues or the blue blood aristocrats against the red blood commoners. They have the Red’s princess locked up in a tower in the capital city of Kabul Downs. Hunter has joined the Reds and battles against the Blue’s jet biplanes. Soon they have to face a massive mercenary army and it is up to Hunter to defeat everyone and rescue the princess who is none other than his love Dominique.

Now this was a very weird book in a very weird series. The first three-fourths doesn’t even have Hunter in it. It consists of Agent Y and his band having adventures in this goofy world. They find Hunter in a British Afghanistan with jet biplanes. Oh and Victor who is also in this world has amnesia but is a good guy. He somehow finds his way into the mercenary army and helps out Hunter. At the end Hunter, Victor and Dominique go back to the Falklands where in the secret research facility they have a portal to our world. It goes to the north Atlantic and the three parachute in but Hunter doesn’t go home.

I get the feeling in this book that Maloney knew it was being cancelled by Pinnacle and was just writing something to fill his contractual obligations. He had a definite plan for Hunter but was going to save it for a new series with Ace. Something that we will look at next.

WINGMAN #15 RETURN OF SKY GHOST BY MACK MALONEY

Standard
Copyright 1998.

America has won it’s 58 year war with Nazis Germany thanks in large part to Hawk Hunter. Yet in this alternate universe there is also a militaristic Japanese Empire. It decides now is the time to attack. So on December 7, 1998 it launches a massive sneak attack on Pearl Harbor. Using giant submarines that are combination aircraft carries and troop transports they devastate Pearl Harbor and five of the six megacarriers. A gas attack and follow up invasion captures the Panama Canal. Soon after they land in South America and with the help of some of the continent’s governments soon control everything except Brazil.

Hunter must now organize another war. He secretly sets up an airbase in the mountains of Peru. Guarded by fierce native tribes this base launches attacks on the occupying forces. Soon America has built up it’s forces and with Brazil plan to launch an invasion. This is only a distraction to the real goal. One of the atomic bombs that Hunter recovered from Germany is being worked on. Made into a superbomb that Hunter must drop on Japan using a massive B-2000 bomber. Only the Japanese have discovered this plan thanks to some traitors in the OSS. An invasion force is headed to the Falklands where a secret research base is located. Hunter has to almost singlehandedly defeat this invasion to carry out his bombing run.

The second book in this goofy alternate universe. This time he now fights the Japanese. If you didn’t think this series could get more weirder than hold on. We got giant over a mile submarine/aircraft carriers. Weird science that Maloney just pulls out of his ass but I guess that’s OK. After all he makes up the rules to this universe. There are also ghosts in this reality and the besieged forces in the Falklands kill one of their own soldiers so his ghost can go and get help. I will say that he definitely succeeded in giving this series a total makeover. Still the same lovable Hawk Hunter and he meets some counterparts from his other world. Yet it is a completely different world. You have to admire his ability to keep his writing fresh when so many other post-apocalypse series from this time didn’t last.

WINGMAN #14 THE SKY GHOST BY MACK MALONEY

Standard
Copyright 1997.

The last time we saw Hawk Hunter he was taking the Zon space shuttle to destroy a comet headed to Earth. Now he finds himself still alive and floating in the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of America. He gets rescued by an American destroyer before a Nazi cruiser comes along. Hunter soon finds out he is in an alternate world. A world were the Nazi never lost WWII. This war has actually been going on for over 58 years. The war heated up in 1987 and now America in on the verge of winning. The Nazis though picked up a person from the ocean too. One who has revitalized them and now after a sneak attack during a peace conference are on the verge of winning. Desperate for pilots Hunter is drafted into the war effort and sent to a base in Iceland.

Hunter finds himself the only one in a fighter squadron that has to escort bombers on useless missions over the occupied British Isles. Hunter assesses the situation and of course takes charge of the whole operation as only Hunter can do. He reorganized the squadrons and soon is launching devastating attacks on Germany. His fame eventually lands him on a mission to destroy a massive dam on the Rhine to stop an imminent invasion of America. He succeeds and finds atomic bombs that the Germans developed. He gets them out of the country and uses them to end the war.

The last book left us with the feeling that it was the final in the series. Yet Maloney decided to take the series in a whole new direction. Hunter was mysteriously transported to an alternate world. A world the Nazis ended up conquering Europe. A world with giant forty engine bombers. Helicopters as big as jet airliners. Aircraft carriers over a mile long. Yet a world that never discovered atomic power. This whole story had a very surreal feel to it. I think it was a bold move to completely change the story. This was very weird but also very interesting. Yet it still retains the goofyness that made this series such a treat to begin with. Gives us a surprise ending on who was helping the Nazis. A great new direction for this series.

TWO HAWKS FROM EARTH BY PHILIP JOSE FARMER

Standard

Copyright 1979.

Roger Two Hawks an Iroquois is a bomber pilot during WWII. During a raid on the oil fields in Romania his bomber is shot down. When he bails out he finds himself not in Romania but some strange foreign land. Yet it is a world that is also fighting a world war. He soon finds himself in an alternate Earth. One where the Americas never existed. The Asian tribes that migrated their instead turned westward and settled in Eastern Europe. So these tribes now have established nations for themselves. The Perkunishans are the Germans of this world and have launched a genocidal war against their neighbors. Blodland is the England of this world and the main opponent to them. Two Hawks soon finds that both factions are out to get him for his knowledge of technological advances from his world. He has many adventures that sees him fall into both factions hands.

This was a really interesting book. Farmer did a lot of research into the various peoples to give us a fascinating look at a world without the Americas. That Eastern Europe is populated by descendants of the tribes that migrated to America seems plausible. There are also no negroid peoples because India is an island and that race never developed. Instead Africa was settled by an Arabic people. There are no horses or camels because these originally developed in the Americas. Only they later became extinct in out world but thrived in Eurasia. There is no rubber so there are no rubber tires for vehicles. It is a world where slavery is still common and ruled by absolute monarchs.

This book was originally written back in 1966 and published under the title The Gate of Time. Farmer states in a foreword he never liked this title because the gateway never dealt with time. That an editor in his words “bowdlerize’ a scene by rewriting it. His original was restored and he wrote an extra 10,000 words for an ending. This ending has Two Hawks after the war finding a portal that brought him to a prehistoric America that had pre-Columbian natives and Two Hawks settling down with dreams of turning them into a modern society.

I loved how this book starts with him giving his story to a writer and you think it is our world. But it turns out to be this world at the end. Also another German also came through and at the end we find out Two Hawks is not from our Earth. When he asks who Hitler is we find out that in his world the Kaiser still rules Germany. Otherwise his world and ours have very similar histories. So if you want a unique alternate history book I would highly recommend this one.