Sunday, December 30, 2012

The Disunited States of America by Harry Turtledove

Earlier this month I started reading the six-volume Crosstime Traffic series by Harry Turtledove. The first novel that I read I enjoyed, while the second one not so much. Fortunately, this story was more like the former than the latter.

Like all of the Crosstime Traffic books this tale takes place in an alternate earth with a different historical timeline. In this case, the story is set in a North America that is divided into numerous autonomous states, in which the United States never came to be. The book opens with Beckie Royer, a teenager from the independent territory of California, travelling to the country of Virginia with her grandmother who is visiting relatives. During their visit, a war breaks out between Virginia and Ohio, both of which are separate nations, and which sees Ohio use biological weapons by spreading a virus that was created in a laboratory.

The other main protagonist is Justin Monroe, a teenage boy and employee of Crosstime Traffic, the company in the "home" earth that has discovered the ability to travel between alternate worlds. As part of his assignment, he travels to Virginia where he meets Beckie, and then is stranded due to the Virginia-Ohio war. The resulting narrative is a captivating story that is pretty good.

This book is meant for young adults, and as such much of it's language is written in PG form. In the hands of a weak writer this could be a big problem. Fortunately, Turtledove is able to convey the idea of swearing without actually using the F-word or other cuss-terms. The result is a funny literary style that is fairly witty. However, while the language is PG, much of the content is not. Covering such themes as racism, oppression, the horror of war and the political history of the United States, this novel allows teenage readers to think about some fairly heavy subjects.

Out of the three books that I have read so far in this series this is the best. In total I have enjoyed two and given the thumbs-down to one. Hopefully the others will be as good as this one.

3 1/2 stars out of 5