Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Opening Atlantis

I just finished reading Opening Atlantis by Harry Turtledove. It is an alternate history novel that takes place in a setting with a continent between North America (Terra Nova) and Europe. The map on the cover of the book shows the east coast of the United States and Canada split off into the middle of the Atlantic. This is, of course, Atlantis.

A description of the book notes, "New York Times bestselling author Harry Turtledove has intrigued readers with such thought-provoking 'what if...' scenarios as a conquered Elizabethan England in Ruled Britannia and a Japanese occupation of Hawaii in Days of Infamy and End of the Beginning. Now, in the first of a brand-new trilogy, he rewrites the history of the world with the existence of an eighth continent... Atlantis lies between Europe and the East Coast of Terranova. For many years, this land of opportunity lured dreamers from around the globe with its natural resources, offering a new beginning for those willing to brave the wonders of the unexplored land."

The book is split into three parts. The first part tells of the discovery and settlement of Atlantis by the English, French, and Spanish. The second part takes places generations later and centers on the war against a pirate nation on the Atlantean bay of Avalon. The final part is an account of a war between England and a French/Spanish alliance in Atlantis. Through the centuries, members of the English Radcliffe (Radcliff) family are featured.

I liked this book but I do have a few quibbles. I did not like the lack of maps. Other than the map on the cover which is reprinted in the book several times, the geography of Atlantis is not revealed. Where exactly is New Hastings and Avalon? What are the boundaries of the English, French, and Spanish colonies? Yes, I know the English are to the North, the Spanish are to the South, and the French are in between but I would have liked more map details.

Also, if there was a continent in the middle of the Atlantic, would this not change ocean currents and hence the weather? And if the weather changed the climate of Europe, would there have ever been a France, England, or Spain as we know them? OK, not a fair question. This is alternate history after all.

As are all Turtledove books, this is well written. I found the book engaging and enjoyable. I did not like to put it down even if the plot was a bit predictable at times. I have read that this is the first part of a trilogy and I look forward to the next two books.

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