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Gunpowder Empire (Crosstime Traffic) Mass Market Paperback – October 1, 2004
"Rebound" by Kwame Alexander
Don't miss best-selling author Kwame Alexander's "Rebound," a new companion novel to his Newbery Award-winner, "The Crossover,"" illustrated with striking graphic novel panels. Pre-order today
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From Publishers Weekly
Readers nostalgic for the juvenile SF novels of Robert A. Heinlein and Andre Norton will find much to enjoy in alternate-history master Turtledove's time-travel novel, the first of a new series, in which a late 21st-century world has eliminated pollution and resource scarcity by exploiting the resources of various alternative realities. The Solter family spends their summers in one such reality, on the frontier of a Roman Empire that never fell, trading Swiss Army knives and other hi-tech trinkets for grain. When the mother suffers an appendicitis attack, the Solter parents travel back home to Southern California for treatment, leaving their teenage children in charge. Then things start to go wrong-the parents are stuck back home and can't communicate with the kids, while invaders lay siege to the Roman city near their summer place, and ever-efficient Roman bureaucrats start asking the kids embarrassing questions. Turtledove (In the Presence of Mine Enemies, etc.) presents his teenaged heroes with a series of moral choices and dilemmas that will particularly resonate with younger fans. This is a rousing story that reminds us that "adventure" really is someone else in deep trouble a long way off.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
The current master of alternate history honors genre founding father H. Beam Piper (1904-64) in a story set on an exhausted, early-twenty-second-century Earth that draws resources from a host of parallel time lines, in some of which the planet is a wilderness, in others inhabited--or uninhabitable. Jeremy and Amanda Solter, typical L.A. teenagers, are spending the summer with their grain-trading parents in a time line in which the Roman Empire never fell. The promise of an interesting experience evaporates when, in rapid succession, their parents go home because of their mother's appendicitis, the cross-time-traveling machine goes down, and the Lieutvans (avatars of the Lithuanians) invade. Tough as they are, Jeremy and Amanda discover that real war is indescribably more ghastly than described war, and dealing with slavery, fur-wearers, and other nonamenities of premodern civilizations is pretty grueling, too. Seemingly a series opener intended to introduce the concept of parallel worlds and Turtledove's take on it, the book succeeds as an homage to parallel-worlds pioneer Piper and a well-told, engaging tale. Roland Green
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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The plot wasn't horrible but unlike most of the characters it never stood out. Thankfully those characters were enough to keep the story going, I was interested, I cared what happened to the sibling and that kept me coming back.
I do hope to see more of the siblings as they grow up and perhaps join crosstime themselves but I am not sure if Turtledove went in that direction.
If you need action and plot twists you will be disappointed, but if you can invest in the characters alone you should be happy to follow them to the end.
Gunpowder Empire takes a late twenty-first century American family to an alternate world where the Roman Empire never fell. They do business there in order to provide scarce resources to their own world, and for a time all seems well. Then the mother gets very ill and she and her husband return to their own world, leaving their two teenage children behind. Then the technology breaks down, and the children are left on their own, possibly for the rest of their lives.
Turtledove has not only revived Piper's idea of Crosstime traffic, he has also hearkened back to Robert Heinlein's juvenile science fiction works of the 1950s and 1960s. At the same time he has provided some thought provoking commentary on war and on gender roles and relationships which give the book more depth. This is the beginning of a fine new series which I hope will see many additions.
As it was, I was able to finish it in a single day, and came away feeling good and quite entertained. Approach this expecting a fairly light and quick read, and you won't be disappointed. Approach this expecting mid-90s Turtledove, and you might be.
If you want a longer read with more historical detail, you might grab Household Gods, which Turtledove co-authored with Judith Tarr.
But things don't go as smoothly as planned. Jeremy's mom falls ill, and his father accompanies her home, leaving the kids on their own--and then, suddenly, entirely on their own as contact with their home universe breaks off. If that is not bad enough, they face an invading army, and pressure from local authorities to reveal the source of their wares. It will take bravery and thoughtfulness for Jeremy and Amanda to get themselves out of this one . . .
An interesting concept which will apparently be used by Turtledove as the basis for exploration of more alternate worlds. But this one is not up to his standards. One never gets the sense that the kids are in any real danger, despite the bullets and cannonballs that fly near them now and then. And these teens are almost too good to be true--they never act irresponsibly, and are a little too politically correct (freeing a slave, reacting with revulsion to fur, etc.). The only non-PC element seems almost accidental (the only girls Jeremy gets the hots for are the daughters of other crosstime traders--he is manifestly uninterested in local girls).
Seems very similar to childrens' adventure stories of a generation or so ago. Pluck and determination will win in the end, without the need for complicated moral questions.
Recommended for Turtledove's readers, to some extent, or for a first alternate history book for young teens. Although frankly, as much as I enjoy Turtledove at his best, there are better books out there for both groups.