Friday, July 1, 2011

Review: The Disunited States of America by Harry Turtledove

He felt as if it were the corpse of his own childhood lying there in a spreading pool of blood.

Justin and his mother work for the Crosstime Traffic Corporation and spend their time traveling to different alternate universes from the home timeline of the late 21st century. In this fourth installment of Turtledove’s Crosstime novels, Justin and his mother travel to an alternate timeline in which the Constitution is never written and the Articles of Confederation failed to work. Each North American state has become like their own country and not all of the states are so friendly with each other.

Becky is stuck with her eccentric grandmother as they take a trip from their liberal California home to the backwoods Elizabeth, Virginia. If the racial injustice wasn’t enough for Becky, the war that rages between Ohio and Virginia as keeps Becky in Elizabeth, fearing for her life, as Ohio unleashes a deadly virus.
The two teenagers find each other as Justin travels to Elizabeth with another Crosstime traveler posing as his uncle. Both fear the senseless war and want a United States, but one of them is too afraid to admit that to the other and is hoping that they live long enough to get out of Elizabeth.

Turtledove has built an alternate reality that is not only imaginative, but hauntingly realistic. His character’s experiences in their surroundings literally put the reader into the story and feel what the characters are feeling. It’s a good choice for anyone that likes speculative fiction or American history.

Release date:  April 26, 2011
Page Count:  288
Genre: Dystopian Young Adult
Similar to:  N/A
Recommended for:  Boys and Girls 12 and up
Stars: 3/5

The Good:

*Turtledove’s world building skills are beyond superb.  He has been noted as the master of alternate realities and I can see why.  The alternate timeline highlighted by this book is so realistic that if you think about it, could actually be a plausible reality.  He was able to build a world focused around what the characters were feeling.  In one scene Turtledove describes Justin’s reaction to shooting a gun and it made me see what Justin was seeing on the streets just by his reactions.

*Having two different main characters gave the story a more three dimensional take.  You could see what the scene would look like to someone from a different timeline and then what it was like to someone who actually lived in that timeline.  Becky and Justin’s reaction to the injustice of the states were so similar and yet so different that you could separate these two characters, but at the same time really grasp onto their experiences together.

The not-as-good:

*The voice of this novel seemed more adult than YA to me.  There were descriptions and situations that both characters dealt with that just didn’t feel young adult at all.  Times have changed with YA literature using more adult themes, which this did, but it didn’t keep that fresh, YA voice that I have read in other novels.

*The beginning was a little slow moving for me.  The real action and war didn’t start until close to the end of the book.  I guess that there did have to be some world and character building to build up to that, but it was just a little harder to get through the first 100 pages because of it.

All in all, with this being my first experience with Turtledove's alternate realities, I have to say that it was a pretty decent one.  I would consider looking into his other Crosstime novels and would advise anyone that is into dystopians or speculative fiction to do the same.

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