History has always fascinated me. The what if’s are my favorite. What if Hitler won? What if the South won the Civil War or the British the Revolutionary War. Harry Turtledove is my favorite author in this genre. I will also include books that were written as future speculation but time has made them more alternate history.
It is the near future of 1983. The United States has a grain embargo on the Soviet Union for their invasion of Afghanistan and Poland. The embargo is effective as the Soviets had crop failures and have daily food riots. The US though is in a severe recession and the embargo is hard on the farmers. The President was the Vice President who was elevated to the position on the sudden death of a popular President. He faces an uphill reelection battle where he might not even get his party’s nomination.
Thus on Christmas a Soviet brigade parachutes into Alaska under the cover of a massive storm. The objective is to hold the oil pipeline hostage in exchange for the lifting of the embargo. A rogue KGB has initiated this without the knowledge of the Soviet premier. Now there is brinkmanship to see who backs down first. Into this a Lt. Colonel and a company of Alaska National Guard try to hold off the superior Soviet force.
This is an adaptation of a TV miniseries. I didn’t originally see it when it came out but caught it a few years later when it was rebroadcast. I was captivated about a series that actually dealt with a Soviet-American conflict. It had some good actors and fun action sequences. Back when it was filmed in 1981 the US was in a recession and the Soviets had recently invaded Afghanistan and the military declared martial law in Poland. There was also a grain embargo that Carter initiated for the invasion. Only it was a failure as the Soviets bought from other countries and never effected the farmers in America. The writers envisioned that the US was able to persuade other countries to join the embargo. Now looking back you can see that the whole strategy was a bit goofy. How you can invade Alaska and get what you want seems a bit unrealistic. Still it made for a fun story if you don’t think about it too much.
The novelization was written by Harold King under the pseudonym Brian Harris. It adapted the screenplay by Robert L. Joseph. The original director Boris Segal was killed in a helicopter crash early in filming and was replaced by David Greene. Segal was a Ukrainian Jew who emigrated to America. His plans were to end the series open ended to leave room for a possible future miniseries or even a TV show. Wow how cool would that have been to have a TV series about WWIII back in the eighties. Needless to say, it wasn’t a ratings hit and the new director decided to end on both countries launching a nuclear war.
The book itself is good. It manages to include stuff that the series due to budget constraints couldn’t. The battle scenes are much more epic in scope. There is actually 800 Soviets with multiple tracked vehicles. They battle ambushes by a 100-man company using their helicopters. At the end when they reach the pumping station, the American commander opens the pipeline and burns up the Soviets. This contrasts with the series small scale battle with men using pipes for cover. Also, the Soviet premier never died in a car bomb but was shown to be basically powerless as the KGB seized control of the country. There is also more characterization for the characters including the Soviet political officer being portrayed as a much bigger jerk.
It is the week before Easter 1976 and the United States has been under the occupation of the Chinussians for a year. This Russian and Chinese alliance used some type of nerve gas to blanket the country and make people docile. They were able to conquer the country without a shot being fired. Now a year later and the gas is starting to wear off. In the small farming community of San Felipe in California someone has decided to fight back. In retaliation for destroying the churches someone sets off a car bomb at the hotel the occupation troops are at. The Chinussian commander Durov decides to publicly execute him. He also randomly picks a woman to torture and kill because he thinks there are more involved.
The woman happened to be the wife of the high school football coach and he decides to start a guerilla operation. He recruits a bunch of people, and they plan to destroy the dam and flood the town. What will this accomplish? Well, he hopes to kill Durov or at the least ruin Durov’s career. In the week until Easter there is a lot of people sleeping around with each other. The high school English teacher tries to convince him not to blow the dam because they should work with the occupation forces. Eventually they do blow the dam and flood the town, but it changes nothing. The Chinussians cover it up and the country is still under occupation.
This is one of those so bad it’s good books. So apparently in the near future the Chinese and Russians get together and take over the country. Back in 1970 this was probably not something that would happen since they were some open hostilities between the two nations. I suppose this makes more sense nowadays since the two countries have more friendly relations and view the US as the main enemy. They can use Tik Tok to sap our will.
Anyway, the country seems to be going on as normal for the most part. Only someone like Durov a bisexual rapist who likes to kill people to show off his power life continues as normal. This is like a soap opera in everybody sleeping around with one another. The guy who starts his guerilla band just has no problem recruiting and they also have no problem of destroying the town to spite Durov. Although he has a problem of recruiting the attractive women because they could cause problems. Not the unattractive ones. The Chinussians really aren’t running a tight ship to let him openly recruit and get dynamite the blow the dam.
Like any seventies story it ends very pessimistically. I don’t know what it is was about the decade. The abundance of polyester or disco seemed to have stories always end in a dark and pessimistic way. A very strange book that I didn’t expect to be this way.
In this future alternate reality, the United States is waging WWIII against a Soviet and Chinese alliance. Billy Justin works as a dairy farmer in Upstate New York when he hears the news. America is totally defeated. There navy is destroyed and the army fighting the invaders along the Mexican border has been overrun. America is forced to unconditionally surrender. The first act of the conquerors is to execute the President and Vice President. Then a new North American People’s Democratic Republic is formed. At first the Soviets who control everything east of the Mississippi seem lenient. Yet as time goes on, they start to ruthlessly squeeze the population. Justin gets a helper for his farm. This helper is a bit mad because he gassed all the people working on a secret project. He shows him the secret base that has an almost finished satellite. A satellite armed with nuclear weapons that may be the last hope for a defeated America.
I have decided to review the stand-alone books that deal with a Soviet invasion. My first book is this one written in 1955. A time were Stalin just died and a Korean war was stalemated. From that time, it seemed that Russia and China were forming a unified alliance to crush the west. Kornbluth envisioned that in the future the anti-air defenses were so effective that you couldn’t effectively use airplanes or missiles to deliver nuclear weapons. The overwhelming might of the Communist world’s conventional armies would overwhelm America.
Now obviously this did not happen. In fact, China and Russia would have a falling out in the sixties and the technology never developed such an efficient anti-air/missile defense. Still as Fredrick Pohl who was a friend of Kornbluth states in his foreword that while his future never materialized, it was meant as a warning and not a prediction. This is really true of any dystopian story. The writer doesn’t really want it to happen. The story is dated but still has so much to say on human nature. The characters in this book are richly detailed and believable. The secret Communist operatives that Justin’s neighbors turn out to be. Instead of a reward they get a bullet in the head as a reward by the victorious Soviets. They want no experienced troublemakers in their new order. The local storeowner Crowley, who is basically a Capitalist, gets the job of representative. An opportunist that changes sides as the wind blows.
The title comes from an essay by Hemingway. Kornbluth sadly died at a young age and didn’t write much. This is a shame for I think he was a very talented writer. This book was compared to 1984 with it being more superior by contemporary critics. Yet it does have a happy and optimistic ending. I highly recommend this book of Communist conquest from the fifties.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.