Friday, December 18, 2009

The Valley-Westside War, by Harry Turtledove

The Valley-Westside War, by Harry Turtledove

Another book in the Crosstime Traffic series, and better than either of the other two I’ve read. The alternate earth here differs in there was a nuclear war in 1967, and now 130 years later California is split into city-states around former neighborhoods. 1967 was recent enough so technology is known in an historical sense, although virtually none of it exists in the present day; this knowledge makes for a dicey time when the time travel chamber is discovered by the locals.

The reason this book is ahead of the others is nobody is really portrayed as stupid just because they are uneducated. Instead of being labeled as “magic” or “witchcraft” when discovered, the electric lights, refrigerator, and voice-activated locks are recognized for what they are. Grasping the concept of time-travel as a reality not only happens but is seen as a reasonable explanation for the existence of tech that can’t possibly exist anymore. There is even a small bit of philosophy thrown in: “What was the difference between superstition and religion generally? ... So far, most of what they said boiled down to What I believe is religion, and what those foolish people over there believe is superstition.” Sadly this examination isn’t advanced any further, because it was the most interesting section of the book. A young adult target audience is made evident with the linear plot and one-dimensional characters, but alternate history always fascinates me and I don’t regret picking this up.

First Sentence:
As Dan neared the top of the Sepulveda Pass, he saw the barricade the Westside had built across the 405.

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