Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Disunited States of America (fiction)

Yesterday was a day for fireworks, picnics, and patriotic celebrations. At least, it was in this timeline for the USA... but what if the Constitution were never ratified? What if the states never united?

Welcome to "alt hist" - the alternative histories produced by wondering "what if" some key event of history had happened differently, then writing in great and grand detail about the results of that new path through time.

Turtledove is an acknowledged master of alternative history (his Guns of the South and WorldWar series are epic), and this trip with Crosstime Traffic to an alternate timestream is as thought-provoking as it is dangerous for Beckie (native to that timestream) and Justin (visiting with his mom on a trading mission).

Biological terrorism launched before the antidote is ready? Rampant racism and unrest? Remember, this is an alternate history, right?

Among all the freedoms that we celebrate today, be sure to exercise your freedom to read!

Book info: The Disunited States of America (Crosstime Traffic #4) / Harry Turtledove. Tor Teen, 2011. [author's website] [publisher site]

Recommendation: War between Ohio and Virginia? In Beckie’s world, it could happen any day. Justin’s seen enough alternate timelines to know that, as a Time Trader traveling through the many realities of how Earth’s history could have turned out.

Justin and his mom travel to Beckie’s alternate to make sure that researchers there hadn’t discovered Crosstime secrets and to help improve race relations. That North America is a crazy-quilt of big and little countries, and there are certainly no equal rights. If you weren’t white and male, you were powerless (except in Mississippi...strange, strange Mississippi).

This alternate never saw the states become united under the Constitution, so Beckie and her grandmother must have passports and visas and permission-to-travel letters for every border crossing between the civilized nation of California and Grandma’s hometown in rural Virginia. The “cousin” who gives them a ride across the bridge from Ohio gives her the creeps…the big guns hidden in his car give her the chills.

Beckie is glad to meet someone her own age when Justin visits the aunt and uncle she’s staying with. Justin is careful to speak like the locals, trying to blend in. Soon, they’re both glad that they met.

Suddenly, people in border towns start dying of a mysterious fever and Ohio is blamed for it. As Virginia soldiers roll in and bombing begins, Beckie and her ever-grumbling grandma search for a safe place, Justin is separated from his mom with communication lines cut, and the fever is confirmed as the plague. Plague! Who has a cure for the plague?

Will Beckie ever get home to California? Will Justin and his mom find their way through time to their world? Can Justin tell Beckie where he’s really from without poking holes in the fabric of time?

Turtledove is the master of alternate history, and his "Time Traders" series takes readers to fascinating timelines that truly make you wonder… what if? (One of 5,000 books recommended on www.abookandahug.com) Review copy courtesy of the publisher.


  1. Ah, Harry Turtledove. You knew I would comment, as I get into the alternate history genre. I've read one of the Crosstime Traffic books - The Gladiator, which I think comes after The Disunited States of America. Now I'll have to find time to read this book, too. (gee thanks....)

  2. @Bookworm - and I have another Crosstime Traffic book waiting in the wings... I just love alt-hist!

    **Katy M
    Recommending YA books beyond the bestsellers at http://BooksYALove.blogspot.com
    Follow me on Twitter @BooksYALove


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