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The Gladiator (Crosstime Traffic) Hardcover – May 29, 2007

4.2 out of 5 stars 23 customer reviews
Book 5 of 6 in the Crosstime Traffic Series

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Set in a future world where the Soviet Union won the Cold War, Turtledove's absorbing fourth Crosstime Traffic novel (after 2005's In High Places) is the best yet in this SF series with substantial YA crossover. The two main characters are particularly well drawn: 17-year-old Annarita Crosetti and 16-year-old Gianfranco Mazzilli, students at Enver Hoxha Polytechnic in a Milan that's part of the quasi-Stalinist Italian People's Republic. Gianfranco is a fairly hopeless student, until he discovers a new game shop called the Gladiator, where he's delighted to play a game, Rails Across Europe, that improves his algebra scores. When the security police close down the shop for teaching capitalism, the head clerk, who's a friend of Gianfranco's and a marooned outtimer, goes on the lam. Fans of Turtledove's unambiguously adult alternative history (Days of Infamy, etc.) will find this effort up to his usual high standard. (June)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

Young Socialist Leaguer Annarita and apparatchik's son Gianfranco have grown up together in Milan after the Soviet Union won the cold war. Gianfranco discovers the Gladiator, a game shop whose fascinating wares teach him to think differently. Suddenly, the shop is closed. The regime realized that the games teach capitalism. The proprietors have vanished, and nowhere are their fingerprints registered. Annarita and Gianfranco run into former shop staffer Eduardo, who admits being an accidentally abandoned trader from another time line. The only way home for Eduardo involves getting to another crosstime transfer point--just ahead of the police. The fifth Crosstime Traffic yarn is a barn burner. Frieda Murray
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
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Product Details

  • Series: Crosstime Traffic (Book 5)
  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Tor Books; English Language edition (May 29, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 076531486X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0765314864
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 1 x 8.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (23 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,213,557 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By JSN VINE VOICE on October 5, 2007
Format: Hardcover
I found this action-packed alternate world one of Harry's better juveniles... a good Heinlein replica 50 +/- years later. It moves swiftly, with well-drawn high school characters and their "supporting" adults -- and is an almost believable yarn. If you ever visited the old USSR and also understand some of our "real" historical turning points this story makes sense. It didn't happen in our world, but this apparently "re-made" socialist "paradise" a very believable Italy. It is a very "1980's Hungarian or Leningradian almost-replica. I'd debate whether or not such an empire would last 150 years, but that is author's perogative.

Bottom-line -- I enjoyed it thoroughly - and that is after 50 years of deeply reading science fiction, with a personal knowledge base going back to the 1930's pulps. Harry, while I thought some of your other recent books had "slipped," this is one of the better alternative adult world(s) you have invented. In some ways I enjoyed this as well as "Guns of the South." Quick, straight, relatively uncomplicated and easy to sort thru and out. As the saying goes, "you got your groove back."
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I liked this book a lot! When I first started reading it, I for some reason thought that it might not be all that good, but that thought was short-lived.

The _Crosstime Traffic_ series is a juvenile (or "young adult," if you prefer)series involving a corporation of that name, which has a means of travelling between alternate timelines. They basically do clandestine import/export between their timeline ("home timeline") and the others ("alternates"). In this novel, you see mission creep setting in; Crosstime Traffic is engaged in subverting the political system in a timeline in which the communists won the Cold War. The story is set in a communist Italy of the late 21st century; I must say that it has a very realistic feel, in that it feels like it's been the 1940s for 150 years (I remember reading an editorial which stated that it was the 1940s in eastern Europe from the 40s until the fall of the Berlin Wall -- it makes sense to me). One of the Crosstime Traffic employees gets trapped there when the secret police close down their business (it sells subversive board games), and has to hide out with some acquaintances of his. The story is told from the point of view of the local characters, not the Crosstime Traffic point of view; it feels almost like Turtledove himself has spent time in a communist police state prior to 1990 or so.

In a previous review, I wondered what it is about Turtledove's writing that I like so much. I've thought about it, and a couple of things occurred to me. One is that his "local color" is always very good. His stories have little details in them that give them that sense of authenticity. Another is that his characters tend to be sympathetic, and seem real as well. His pacing is pretty good, too, so that it's easy to keep turning the pages in one of his stories.

I'd highly recommend this book (as well as the rest of the series) to anyone of any age, even though these books are written as juveniles.
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Format: Mass Market Paperback Verified Purchase
A YA novel, typical Turtledove novel and overall very good. If you are unfamiliar with life in the former Soviet Union (or any totalitarian state) this shows very well how life in such an environment will develop. A quick read and worth the bit of time spent reading the novel.
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
Though fiction, he seems to do very well at painting a vivid picture of life under Communism. Likewise, his "The Guns Of The South", while also fiction seems to do a particularly good job of illustrating issues related to _its_ setting (the American Civil War). It was an interesting experience in and of itself and it also felt good to be reminded of one of the highlights of Turtledove's career.

The US standing down during the Cuban Missile Crisis and losing the Vietnam War even worse make sense as turning points. Turtledove said something about US missiles in Turkey. I already knew about that, but it was good to see the relatively unknown historical detial reflected.

The description of the game store and its patrons seems quite accurate - I've been there done that, although I'm more into fancy card games than those sorts of board games. It almost got to the point of being nerd fanservice, though I suppose it's a good thing if that's the worst I can say about that aspect. I noticed how the boy didn't realize that the girl was eventually only feigning interest in his hobby - though that's happened to me with people besides significant others, it still felt very relevant. As usual for the Crosstime Traffic series, I liked how the romance between the male and female leads was not overplayed.

Trying to subtly influence revolution was a nice change of pace from the other Crosstime Traffic books, where the activity in the alternates was simply a way of procuring resources for the home timeline. That helped keep the series from gettign stale despite other strong structural similarities. Also, it was a nice spin in science fiction with hands-off policies (see the Star Trek Prime Directive) or direct contact. I liked how Turtledove explained that military intervention would be logistically unfeasible.

I liked how Eduardo seemed quite realistic and fair in describing the weaknesses of democratic capitalism.
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Format: Kindle Edition
What if the Soviet Union had won and socialism had come to dominate the world? Turtledove sees a world of low technology, a broken elevator waiting years to be fixed by the system, preferential treatment for party members, fear, and repression. A science fiction angle develops when visitors from an alternate history come to spread a message of free markets and merit. Great book for boys or girls. A touch of romance but not enough to spoil it for the boys. Good for pre-teens and teens, though I actually enjoyed it at 58 years of age!
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