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24 of 25 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Turtledove can write straight sf, also
"Mars is boring. Turns out it's too damn small. But what if it weren't. . . " That is speculation which begins Harry Turtledove's novel A World of Difference. Turtledove, therefore replaces Mars with Minerva, a planet similar to Mars except for the existence of water, atmosphere and life. Upon arriving on Minerva, the Viking lander transmits tantalizing pictures...
Published on March 19, 1998 by shsilver@ameritech.net

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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A disappointingly conventional sci-fi novel
This was a book that I read both because of its author and its premise. With dozens of alternate history novels, novellas, and short stories to his credit, Harry Turtledove is the acknowledged master of the genre, and I have enjoyed many of his works. The description of the story also had much to offer, moving away from the standard Civil War/World War II setting of far...
Published on April 21, 2008 by MarkK


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24 of 25 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Turtledove can write straight sf, also, March 19, 1998
This review is from: A World of Difference (Mass Market Paperback)
"Mars is boring. Turns out it's too damn small. But what if it weren't. . . " That is speculation which begins Harry Turtledove's novel A World of Difference. Turtledove, therefore replaces Mars with Minerva, a planet similar to Mars except for the existence of water, atmosphere and life. Upon arriving on Minerva, the Viking lander transmits tantalizing pictures back to earth, ending abruptly after sending the image of an alien's limb. A joint American-Soviet manned mission is launched to explore the strange world.
Of course, everything goes wrong when the American and the Soviet spaceships land on opposite sides of a deep trench. Physically cut off from each other, each team makes contact with a difference group of Minervans. The Minervans are radially symmetrical on an hexagonal model and are perhaps Turtledove's most successful attempt at alien construction. Unlike humans, Minervans have little sense of the individual. Minervans discovery of the individual forms a major plot point of the novel.
An important aspect of Minervan physiognomy is that female Minervans always die of blood loss when giving birth. Naturally, this fact affects their society in very basic ways. The ruler of the Minervans befriended by the Americans, Reatur, has recently impregnated his favorite wife and looks to his American friends to help find a way to save his wife.
A World of Difference is much more than a story of the discovery of a new race. In addition to seeing both Americans and Soviets deal with the Minervans, Turtledove also shows, in detail, the two political enemies working together and against each other throughout the novel as political and environmental changes occur. Despite basic ideological differences, the joint mission to Minerva began as a collaborative effort and the two crews make attempts to cooperate even as their instincts tell them not to.
Turtledove also treats the reader to a guided tour of Minerva, which is strikingly Mars-like. However, because he has created a new planet, Turtledove can make alterations to Mars so the planet suits his and his characters' purposes better than the planet which so many authors have described.
In many ways, A World of Difference feels like an extended Analog story. The characters are well drawen, but not particularly realistic. They are, generally likable and interact well with each other and with the Minervans. Turtledove gives them obstacles, political, environmental and racial, to overcome and they deal with those obstacles in a very Campbellian way.
Although Turtledove slips in a few alternate historical moments in the novel, alternate history, for which Turtledove is justifiably well known, is a minor part of the novel. Human history has gone on nearly the same path as it did in our Minerva-less solar system. A World of Difference serves as a reminder that Turtledove has written a lot of non-alternate history works and has proven himself adept in straight science fiction.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Sci-fi like only Harry can do, September 8, 2000
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This review is from: A World of Difference (Mass Market Paperback)
I absoluetly loved this book. So very realistic and compelling. The characters, both human and minervan, are engaging and well devloped. The story could very easily be considered both alternate history or straight sci-fi. This book has been overlooked by many sci-fi fans by Turtledove's more well-known books. That to me is a shame. I would love to see a sequel to this book to see how Earth and Minerva grow together and how each affects the other's societies.
Read this book once and then read it again. You will enjoy it from cover to cover. This book is proof that Harry Trutledoveis one of the masters of Sci-fi/Alternate History.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Turtledove's Alternate History of a "Mars" with life, March 17, 1998
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Jvstin "Paul Weimer" (Twin Cities, MN United States) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: A World of Difference (Mass Market Paperback)
While Harry Turtledove is far better known for his fantasy novels (eg. The Videssos novels) and his alternate histories (see the WorldWar books), included in his canon is this what-if with a subtler premise--what if Mars had, when it was formed, coalesced into a larger planet--called Minerva in this history, and supported life, including intelligent life. Add in rival Soviet and American missions to the large fourth planet, not to mention the interesting biology of the aliens themselves, and you have A World of Difference. Even though the Soviet-American "cold-war" relations may seem dated in this era of Yeltsin, the premise still holds up rather well. Even better are the aliens themselves...technologically inferior to their visitors, their attempts to manipulate their new friends into sharing their power and technology (most especially weapons) are all too reminiscent of the history of third world peoples on our own planet who tried the same to their European visitors.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Different Mars, November 14, 2005
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This review is from: A World of Difference (Mass Market Paperback)
"Alternate Histories" can by be fascinating and nobody does it better than Harry Turtledove but most suffer from a seemingly insoluble problem. From the point of departure from "recognized" history, the stories of necessity diverge more and more. In this book Turtledove gets around this problem in a novel way. He moves it off planet.

In this story, earth history is just like we all know right up until the Viking lander. In this universe, though, Mars is not our planet. It is more massive, it has an atmosphere and intelligent life. It is also called Minerva. The last photos taken by the Viking lander on Minerva are of a native Minervan attacking it. This naturally spurs all sorts of efforts to send a manned mission. Since the period is the 70s, the cold war is in full swing and the Soviets and Americans are determined to beat each other. They land at different but nearby sites and befriend tribes antagonistic towards each other. The cold war has moved to the red planet.

The story is interesting enough but Turtledove's real talent is to present ideas in new and differing ways. The Minervans of this story are utterly strange and different from humans. Still, he manages to convey their alien sensibilities in a credible, believable and understandable manner. He also makes us laugh at ourselves.

This is an excellent story and lots of fun.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A disappointingly conventional sci-fi novel, April 21, 2008
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MarkK (Phoenix, AZ, USA) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: A World of Difference (Mass Market Paperback)
This was a book that I read both because of its author and its premise. With dozens of alternate history novels, novellas, and short stories to his credit, Harry Turtledove is the acknowledged master of the genre, and I have enjoyed many of his works. The description of the story also had much to offer, moving away from the standard Civil War/World War II setting of far too many alternate histories to pose a much more refreshing one - what if the fourth planet from our sun was capable of sustaining life?

Much of what Turtledove does with this is imaginative. No longer the "red planet" we know, he bestows upon it a different name - "Minerva" rather than Mars. To make it habitable, then planet is larger, though its distance from the sun means that it is still a cold place. He also devises an ecology based around entirely different premises, imagining evolution producing radial rather than symmetrical species with their own cycles and habits. After this life is discovered by an American probe in 1976, the two superpowers of the United States and the Soviet Union race to send manned missions to Minerva to explore it for themselves, with the story itself being a tale of the two missions' simultaneous arrival on the planet.

Yet as I read this book, I was struck by how conventional it was. Once the premise is outlined, the plot quickly develops along the lines of the American-versus-Soviet space contests typical of many sci-fi novels produced during the Cold War. Propping up the story with an alternate-history setting allows Turtledove to get away with this, but it gives the entire book a prematurely dated feel. Moreover, too many of the characters are underdeveloped, sometimes leaving them indistinguishable from one another. The "Minervans" suffer from similar flaws, with only a few of them clearly defined in any way and none of them ever coming across as truly alien.

As a result, the book might disappoint readers familiar with Turtledove's later work. While not a bad novel, it lacks the distinctive characters and immersion into detailed alternate Earths that are hallmarks of many of the author's subsequent writings. Fans of Turtledove's other novels will find the absence of such elements leaving them wanting more, as it fails to provide what they have come to expect from this notable author.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A fatastically simple and entertaining story, November 15, 2005
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This review is from: A World of Difference (Mass Market Paperback)
As far as storytelling goes, this is Turtledove at his best. The idea in this book is a fresh one, departing from the usual fantasy worlds and civil war epics the author is known for. What initially grabbed me about this book was the orginality of concept. Replace Mars with an Earth-like planet named Minerva, keep the rest of Human History the same (at least pre-1990 history) - and you have a believable, yet entirely fantastic story.

Humans travel to Minerva to follow up on a lost probe sent by the Americans. That probe, Viking I, landed on Minerva and snapped a picture of a seemingly intelligent alien before being destroyed by said alien. Naturally, this kicks off a space race between the Americans and Russians (still Soviets in this timeline) to see who can get to Minerva first. As fate would have it, they both land at the same time, but on opposite sides of an impossibly large canyon separating two nations of Minervans about to go to war (in all their 12th century techno-level glory).

Americans side with good Minervans, Russians with Bad guys. Like I said, simple. However, it's drawn very well. The Minervans are described very well, giving the reader a sense of their radical differences from humans. In fact, it's the gradual understanding of the Minervan culture that makes this book a true science fiction classic. Few authors have pulled off describing a truly alien civilization so well.

But beyond that, the human characters are done decently enough to keep the reader from rolling their eyes. Another reviewer here compares them to characters in an Analog short story. That's a good description. They are real, but the way a plastic toy is real. I think most readers will forgive this simplicity in order to tell a bigger story.

Overall, the book is extremely fun to read. It's not too scientific (which saddened me, as a hard sci-fi fan), not too deep... but it's just, well, COOL. The story is cool.

In the end, you'll honestly wish we had a Minerva in our skies instead of boring old Mars. I just wish Turtledove would have continued this book instead going crazy with WWII Lizards and 1960's Confederate America...
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4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars inpluasible plot & characters in a "sci-fi" bore, May 9, 2007
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2theD "2theD" (The Big Mango, Thailand) - See all my reviews
This review is from: A World of Difference (Mass Market Paperback)
Mr. Turtledove, being an author of alternative history books, has produced this aweful piece of work about an alternative "Mars" planet. If you want to read the plot, read other reviews. If you want to get down to the jist of the story, read here.

The human characters presented (mainly the Americans, rather than the Russians) are shallow. Shallow in charcter depth and in morals. Reading about the back-stabbing cheating partners of two of the crew of six made my stomach turn. The sleezy sex provides nothing to the storyline whatsoever. The dialogue between humans doesn't reflect their humanity, they seem more like robots sent from each earth millions of miles away. The human just aren't "human" enough.

Now when it comes to the aliens, they seem TOO human. Yes, that is correct. The human language and alien languages are quickly (and unbelievably) learned quickly. The aliens have the same emotions as humans do and reflect it in their speech.

The entire scenerio seems like hogwash. Turtledove hardly wrote any good science into this book, rendering the plausability of the whole trip to the planet into the waterbasin (to put it nicely). I found this book a bore to read through, even when the alien clans finally went to war. I say, "If you like sci-fi, stay clear of this book." Turtledove could have done so much with the idea but drove it deep underground... where it should have stayed and never been published.
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4.0 out of 5 stars interesting, well told story, June 12, 2014
The key to sci-fi is creating an interesting and believable world. H. T. did a great job of doing just that!
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4.0 out of 5 stars Real science-fiction, not fantasy, April 19, 2014
I found the premise of the book interesting. It is set during the time of the Cold War between the United States and the Soviet Union. (It would probably still be feasible for 2014.) The fictional science seems plausible to me, although I do not have the expertise of a cosmologist to be judging it. It is not a complex plot. As a movie, it would probably be a PG-13, definitely not an R. I'm glad that I got it from the county library, rather than purchasing it. It was an enjoyable read but not so compelling that I plan to read it again. However, I might look for more books by the same author.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting, February 6, 2013
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If you enjoy turtledove novels this will interest you. Sci-fi with great writing the story left some to be desired but the world that turtledove created will keep you interested almost to the end.
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A World of Difference
A World of Difference by Harry Turtledove (Mass Market Paperback - August 30, 2005)
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