Reply
 
Thread Tools Display Modes
  #1  
Old 08-02-2019, 03:52 PM
Sangahyando is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Mar 2015
Posts: 2,478

Harry and me -- largely, parting of ways seen


I've been a longtime "love-hate semi-fan" of Harry Turtledove -- concerning which thing I sometimes fear that I bore fellow-Straight Dope-participants, more than is welcome.

A poster on the Khadaji's Whatcha reading thread for June this year, mentioned his being in the process of reading a new (2018) Turtledove novel, In Darkest Europe -- not hitherto heard of by me. His description: "set in an alternative near present when North African and Middle Eastern Muslim nations are a progressive and relatively peaceful First World and Europe is backward, hyper-violent and fundamentalist". Unheard-of till then, by me: interest piqued, I acquired a copy.

Having read the book: I spent some time composing a colossal-length essay on my thoughts about IDE and the author's ways in general; then realised that as a post it would likely elicit from most readers, the tl/dr reaction.

Doing very best for brevity and succinctness: while the book was in itself an agreeable-enough read -- it had me concluding as follows. Turtledove -- aside from his lesser writing quirks, which drive some to fury / some can live with / some, perhaps, actually like -- is, while a creative author of some talent, essentially a rather lazy one; casting doubt IMO, on his often-heard "modern master of alternate history" accolade. He can, and sometimes does, use his own imagination and come up with material of actual not-happened-before originality; but it would seem that the majority of the time, he takes the easy way of either straight re-telling of "this world" events, only under a different guise; or direct "flipping-over" of actual history -- as with this latest (promising to him, I feel, a bunch of easy-to-write sequels), where "the post-Christian world is the Muslim world, and vice versa".

Kudos to Harry for being able to churn out such a huge volume of stuff, and have a multitude of devotees of it, and laugh all the way to the bank; but at the risk of being regarded as an elitist snob: I have a bit of a feeling in this, of being "had for a mug" by him. Quite fun reading, if you can cope with his authorial traits; but: a tendency to reckon that, with the necessary swotting-up, one could do as well oneself... I feel, perhaps perversely, unwilling for the sake of the only moderate pleasure of reading his foreseen future "Darkest Europe" books (or anything else he might come up with), to contribute to his personal gravy train. Am figuring that I'm at a parting of the ways with any of Mr. Turtledove's future writing.
  #2  
Old 08-02-2019, 04:46 PM
Sunny Daze's Avatar
Sunny Daze is online now
Member
 
Join Date: Feb 2014
Location: Bay Area Urban Sprawl
Posts: 13,000
I have tried to read and like Turtledove, based on how many people like him and interesting storylines. Your statement here summarizes my feelings about his writing.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Sangahyando View Post
He can, and sometimes does, use his own imagination and come up with material of actual not-happened-before originality; but it would seem that the majority of the time, he takes the easy way of either straight re-telling of "this world" events, only under a different guise; or direct "flipping-over" of actual history -- as with this latest (promising to him, I feel, a bunch of easy-to-write sequels), where "the post-Christian world is the Muslim world, and vice versa".
I'll also add that he includes very few women, which I found unrealistic. I presume he didn't find many when he was researching his topic.
  #3  
Old 08-02-2019, 06:03 PM
Tamerlane is offline
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Oct 2000
Location: SF Bay Area, California
Posts: 13,874
Quote:
Originally Posted by Sangahyando View Post
Turtledoveis, while a creative author of some talent, essentially a rather lazy one; casting doubt IMO, on his often-heard "modern master of alternate history" accolade. He can, and sometimes does, use his own imagination and come up with material of actual not-happened-before originality; but it would seem that the majority of the time, he takes the easy way of either straight re-telling of "this world" events, only under a different guise; or direct "flipping-over" of actual history -- as with this latest (promising to him, I feel, a bunch of easy-to-write sequels), where "the post-Christian world is the Muslim world, and vice versa".
God yes. One of my step-brothers introduced me to the Videssos novels. He, like myself, is a long-time sf/fantasy fan and as an experienced reader he was a big fan of the apparent world-building in them. But then he's a math/computer guy, not a history guy. I on the other hand, while sorta enjoying parts of the story, kept shaking my head. I mean it is the late Byzantine empire with magic. Blatantly. With every single faction and even the fucking geography being a straight/flipped copy( with magic! ).

I found it a little grating. They're not bad books at all and if I hadn't read a fuck-ton of Byzantine history I'm sure I'd have enjoyed them more. I'll give him a modicum of credit for hitting on a winning formula. I mean how many readers have read a fuck-ton of Byzantine history? Probably not many.

So I would no means call him a hack - his books are entertaining enough. But he's lazy as hell.

Last edited by Tamerlane; 08-02-2019 at 06:05 PM.
  #4  
Old 08-02-2019, 08:15 PM
Bayaker is online now
Guest
 
Join Date: Dec 2016
Location: A town on Galveston Bay
Posts: 4,160
This thread is like a heads-up warning for me. Thanks guys!

Just this week I discovered Turtledove at my library and started reading How Few Remain. I'm only about a hundred pages in, but so far I like that he does a "retelling" or "flipping over" of actual history. The fact that he is dropping in just about anybody who was anybody in the mid-to-late nineteenth century, like he is the Forrest Gump of authors, is a bit worrying.

The Videssos novels, which I found out about when googling Turtledove after coming home with How Few Remain, really had me intrigued as I really have read a "fuck-ton", no - make that a metric fuck-ton, of Byzantine history. It looks like I will have to read a chapter or three before committing to the Videssos trilogy. I can deal with a suspension-of-belief setup, but fantasy/magic does nothing for me.
  #5  
Old 08-03-2019, 12:15 PM
Sangahyando is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Mar 2015
Posts: 2,478
Quote:
Originally Posted by Sunny Daze View Post
I'll also add that he includes very few women, which I found unrealistic. I presume he didn't find many when he was researching his topic.
Would you be referring here to In Darkest Europe, rather than Turtledove's work more generally? I have the impression that overall, when he's not writing about highly male-dominated societies, he features plenty of impressive female characters.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Tamerlane View Post
God yes. One of my step-brothers introduced me to the Videssos novels. He, like myself, is a long-time sf/fantasy fan and as an experienced reader he was a big fan of the apparent world-building in them. But then he's a math/computer guy, not a history guy. I on the other hand, while sorta enjoying parts of the story, kept shaking my head. I mean it is the late Byzantine empire with magic. Blatantly. With every single faction and even the fucking geography being a straight/flipped copy( with magic! ).

I found it a little grating. They're not bad books at all and if I hadn't read a fuck-ton of Byzantine history I'm sure I'd have enjoyed them more. I'll give him a modicum of credit for hitting on a winning formula. I mean how many readers have read a fuck-ton of Byzantine history? Probably not many.

So I would no means call him a hack - his books are entertaining enough. But he's lazy as hell.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Bayaker View Post
This thread is like a heads-up warning for me. Thanks guys!

Just this week I discovered Turtledove at my library and started reading How Few Remain. I'm only about a hundred pages in, but so far I like that he does a "retelling" or "flipping over" of actual history. The fact that he is dropping in just about anybody who was anybody in the mid-to-late nineteenth century, like he is the Forrest Gump of authors, is a bit worrying.
I've always greatly liked HFR -- but yes, it is a bit like that. Much the same thing applies to George MacDonald Fraser's Flashman books: but one recognises that those are basically satire and burlesque -- strict credibility re "probable-ness" of who might have been where and when, are not what they're about.

Quote:
The Videssos novels, which I found out about when googling Turtledove after coming home with How Few Remain, really had me intrigued as I really have read a "fuck-ton", no - make that a metric fuck-ton, of Byzantine history. It looks like I will have to read a chapter or three before committing to the Videssos trilogy. I can deal with a suspension-of-belief setup, but fantasy/magic does nothing for me.
Re Videssos (per Tamerlane and Bayaker) -- I've quite long been aware (though discovered the fact, after I'd read the Videssos novels) that the whole lot is "cribbed" from real-world Byzantine history. As it happens, I know almost nothing about real-world Byzantine history. I loved the novels; and I suspect that I'd have loved them almost as much anyway, even knowing that they were a rip-off from what really happened. (SDMB's maxim notwithstanding; ignorance can be bliss !)

For me anyhow -- I suspect that enjoying Videssos, is helped by the action supposedly taking place a couple of millennia ago: there isn't all the modern technology which in certain other works of Turtledove's, he has to strive mightily to replace with magic and / or trained giant beasts specific to the universe concerned. 1 A.D. technology, helped out a bit by magic (which in Videssos IIRC, is exhausting to practice, and can't lightly be used as a short-cut), I was able to be happy with.
  #6  
Old 08-03-2019, 04:11 PM
Mama Zappa is offline
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Feb 2003
Posts: 12,422
I enjoyed his Worldwar series (WW2 is happening pretty much as we all recall it, until the aliens arrived) despite the one utter absurdity of the premise: the aliens had sent a probe to Earth a thousand or so years ago, seen that we would be no match for them, assumed human society would change as slowly as theirs did.... and sent a slower-than-light invasion force to take over, not getting any additional intel along the way. Hella shock for the aliens, to see how much we'd evolved technologically speaking, that we were not much behind them, and that we were not gonna take it lying down.

I read a standalone (I hope!!!) tale a couple weeks ago, called Hail! Hail! Premise: the Marx brothers get zapped back into 1826 Texas at the beginning of the Fredonian Rebellion. Don't waste your time.

I don't mind that he includes real historical people: they would have been present in the world already at the point of diversion from our timeline, and if they were known in our history texts, they would probably be pretty active even after the POD.
  #7  
Old 08-03-2019, 04:46 PM
DrFidelius's Avatar
DrFidelius is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Mar 1999
Location: Miskatonic University
Posts: 12,550
Thank you.
You cannot just file the serial numbers off history and present it as your own stories.
__________________
The opinions expressed here are my own, and do not represent any other persons, organizations, spirits, thinking machines, hive minds or other sentient beings on this world or any adjacent dimensions in the multiverse.

Last edited by DrFidelius; 08-03-2019 at 04:46 PM.
  #8  
Old 08-03-2019, 06:48 PM
Baker is offline
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Dec 1999
Location: Tottering-on-the-Brink
Posts: 20,468
Quote:
Originally Posted by DrFidelius View Post
Thank you.
You cannot just file the serial numbers off history and present it as your own stories.
Why not? If you were the one getting the checks would you turn them down?

I don't like all of Turtledove but there are many I enjoy, especially the Videssos novels. And the shorter stories of Basil Argyos, in an alternate history of Byzantium, are fun. The mention's of Basil's favorite saint, St. Moamet. are intriguing. There is no God but the Lord, and Christ is his Son."

Ruled Brittania was moving, to me at least. My favorite moment was when Will Shakespeare stepped forward to deliver the closing lines of the play "No epilogue here unless you make it, If you want your freedom go an take it!"
__________________
At least my dog loves me.
  #9  
Old 08-03-2019, 07:14 PM
Bayaker is online now
Guest
 
Join Date: Dec 2016
Location: A town on Galveston Bay
Posts: 4,160
Quote:
Originally Posted by DrFidelius View Post
Thank you.
You cannot just file the serial numbers off history and present it as your own stories.
Can you elaborate on what you mean by this?

Historical fiction and alternate histories are pretty much required to include real people and events, with the fictional part wrapped around them. Otherwise, it would be just plain old fiction, and lose most of its appeal.

What would Gore Vidal's Burr be without the title character's life being common knowledge? The way Vidal weaves a story around well-known facts is what makes it great.
  #10  
Old 08-04-2019, 05:48 AM
Sangahyando is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Mar 2015
Posts: 2,478
Quote:
Originally Posted by Mama Zappa View Post
I enjoyed his Worldwar series (WW2 is happening pretty much as we all recall it, until the aliens arrived) despite the one utter absurdity of the premise: the aliens had sent a probe to Earth a thousand or so years ago, seen that we would be no match for them, assumed human society would change as slowly as theirs did.... and sent a slower-than-light invasion force to take over, not getting any additional intel along the way. Hella shock for the aliens, to see how much we'd evolved technologically speaking, that we were not much behind them, and that we were not gonna take it lying down.
I mostly delighted in the Worldwar series (except for the utterly awful final volume Homeward Bound). Will confess to being weak on science -- is the situation as you describe it, actually that absurd and super-unlikely? As Turtledove "writes" the Lizards, a hampering trait of theirs is that they're not very imaginative: feel that I can accept their not seeing any need for additional up-to-date gen...

Quote:
I read a standalone (I hope!!!) tale a couple weeks ago, called Hail! Hail! Premise: the Marx brothers get zapped back into 1826 Texas at the beginning of the Fredonian Rebellion. Don't waste your time.
Not heard of this one, hitherto -- it does indeed sound beyond-ghastly, and to be avoided !

Quote:
I don't mind that he includes real historical people: they would have been present in the world already at the point of diversion from our timeline, and if they were known in our history texts, they would probably be pretty active even after the POD.
And Bayaker writes: "...alternate histories are pretty much required to include real people and events...Otherwise it would be just plain old fiction, and lose most of its appeal."

This tends to be a "thorny thicket" for alternate-history aficionados. I gather that the "purist" position here, is that no character born after the point of divergence, is admissible: because everything is liable to start changing, very rapidly -- parents may well not meet each other, contrary to how things went in "Our Time-Line", etc. According to this strict standpoint, Turtledove does a lot of cheating in his Southern Victory / TL191 series, which features a number of characters from OTL, in roles with varying degrees of similarity to their OTL ones. With TL191's point of divergence being 1862: perhaps he could be "allowed", those of such characters who were born in the 1870s, quite soon after the POD (Al Smith, Herbert Hoover, Winston Churchill, who is leader of enemy Britain in the series's World War II); but such who were born later -- say Franklin D. Roosevelt, George Patton, Douglas MacArthur (there is IIRC a "dead ringer" for him, in the series), all 1880s-born: he's getting onto dodgy ground.

Of course -- Bayaker's point -- alternate history taking place any appreciable time-distance beyond the POD can indeed, if the author adheres strictly to "no-one born after...", lose its "alternate" quality, and become simply plain old fiction. The whole business is a bothersome one. I would say that I've come across claimed alternate-history novels / stories set at a time centuries after the POD; where the whole thing of the changes vis-a-vis our time-line, set off by the divergence: "worked" and made good reading, and re which offerings I'd say that the "alternate" designation was still valid -- but this would seem not an easy thing to pull off.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Baker View Post
I don't like all of Turtledove but there are many I enjoy, especially the Videssos novels. And the shorter stories of Basil Argyos, in an alternate history of Byzantium, are fun. The mention's of Basil's favorite saint, St. Moamet. are intriguing. There is no God but the Lord, and Christ is his Son."
I've long been aware of the Basil Argyos stories, but have never read them -- Turtledove simply writes so damned much ! -- and with my not being in the US, it can be a little harder to acquire stuff by him. They sound as though they could be worth investigating.

Quote:
Ruled Brittania was moving, to me at least. My favorite moment was when Will Shakespeare stepped forward to deliver the closing lines of the play "No epilogue here unless you make it, If you want your freedom go an take it!"
I greatly enjoyed Ruled Britannia. In my experience, his stand-alone novels and / or single-volume collaborations -- or short-story works -- often display more originality and less "bloat", than his long series are apt to do: could name, as well as Ruled Britannia: Guns of the South, A World of Difference, Household Gods, A Different Flesh.

From posts in this thread: I feel perhaps it's a bit soon for me to give up on anything by this author, which would be "fresh" to me. He can produce extremely good material; but when he's crummy, as to various degrees he often is...

Last edited by Sangahyando; 08-04-2019 at 05:51 AM. Reason: punctuation
  #11  
Old 08-04-2019, 10:40 AM
gdave is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: May 2018
Posts: 245
Quote:
Originally Posted by Mama Zappa View Post
I enjoyed his Worldwar series (WW2 is happening pretty much as we all recall it, until the aliens arrived) despite the one utter absurdity of the premise: the aliens had sent a probe to Earth a thousand or so years ago, seen that we would be no match for them, assumed human society would change as slowly as theirs did.... and sent a slower-than-light invasion force to take over, not getting any additional intel along the way. Hella shock for the aliens, to see how much we'd evolved technologically speaking, that we were not much behind them, and that we were not gonna take it lying down.
What part of the premise seems utterly absurd to you?

IIRC, the Lizards have a hyper-conservative, hyper-centralized and hyper-authoritarian society. When a new technological innovation is created, they Powers-That-Be in charge of technological innovation spend literally generations experimenting, developing, and improving it before putting it into mass production, as well as planning out how and when to introduce, trying to foresee and account for all possible unintended consequences and knock-on effects.

After achieving spaceflight, they encountered two other "nearby" inhabited planets, both with pre-industrial civilizations, both similarly hidebound. They easily conquered both.

Then the Lizards sent a probe to Earth, which arrived c. 1000 CE and evaluated a Norman knight as the peak of Earth's military capability. The Lizards carefully planned a planetary invasion based on this intel, and sent their invasion force with a follow-on colonization fleet. And all of this was taking place at sub-light speeds, and took place over the course of many centuries, which is almost hasty by their standards.

If you grant the premise of hyper-hidebound humanoid lizards which are biologically compatible with Earth conditions (which is, granted, a big ask), the rest seems to flow logically.

The Lizards have no reason to try to collect updated intel, since the entire historical experience of their species, including interactions with two other sapient species, is that a mere 1,000 years can't possibly result in much significant technological development. And even if they wanted to, since all of their space travel technology is hyper-optimized sublight engines, it's not at all clear that another probe would even get their before their invasion force. And even if it returned updated intel while the invasion force was en route, given the hyper-hidebound nature of the Lizards, it's not at all clear the invasion force leaders would even be psychological able to properly process the information and adapt to it.
  #12  
Old 08-05-2019, 10:19 PM
Bayaker is online now
Guest
 
Join Date: Dec 2016
Location: A town on Galveston Bay
Posts: 4,160
Quote:
Originally Posted by gdave View Post
What part of the premise seems utterly absurd to you?...
I can't speak for Mama Zappa, but the moment that lizards from outer space show up seems utterly absurd from any angle I look at it. It might make for a sci-fi story, but alternate history or historical fiction it ain't. There needs to be a plausible change to real-life history that makes the further changes that grow out of it as the timeline inches toward the present seem believable.
  #13  
Old 08-06-2019, 07:17 AM
DrFidelius's Avatar
DrFidelius is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Mar 1999
Location: Miskatonic University
Posts: 12,550
Quote:
Originally Posted by Bayaker View Post
Can you elaborate on what you mean by this?



Historical fiction and alternate histories are pretty much required to include real people and events, with the fictional part wrapped around them. Otherwise, it would be just plain old fiction, and lose most of its appeal.



What would Gore Vidal's Burr be without the title character's life being common knowledge? The way Vidal weaves a story around well-known facts is what makes it great.
I'm glad to expand.
The last two Turtledove novels I read (The Man with the Iron Heart and In the Presence of My Enemies) were, respectively, our situation in Iraq and the fall of the Soviet Union set in alternate post WW2 Gemanies. With no insight or creativity.
__________________
The opinions expressed here are my own, and do not represent any other persons, organizations, spirits, thinking machines, hive minds or other sentient beings on this world or any adjacent dimensions in the multiverse.
  #14  
Old 08-06-2019, 08:27 AM
JohnT's Avatar
JohnT is offline
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Jul 2001
Location: San Antonio, TX
Posts: 23,885
Hell, I just looked at the WorldWar books as an exercise in asking "if you put the 1991-era Gulf War army (bigger, yes!) in the middle of WW2, gave the GWA severe resupply issues.... could the Gulf War army beat the world?"

I like Harry. Talk to him often on Twitter, seems like a regular guy. I'll link him this thread, but the odds of him reading it (because of the stupid Tapatalk prompt which kills most interest in this site) may be low.
  #15  
Old 08-06-2019, 10:32 AM
Bayaker is online now
Guest
 
Join Date: Dec 2016
Location: A town on Galveston Bay
Posts: 4,160
Quote:
Originally Posted by DrFidelius View Post
I'm glad to expand.
The last two Turtledove novels I read (The Man with the Iron Heart and In the Presence of My Enemies) were, respectively, our situation in Iraq and the fall of the Soviet Union set in alternate post WW2 Gemanies. With no insight or creativity.
Ah, I thought that by "file the serial numbers off history and present it as your own stories", you meant there was too much actual history(an impossibility!). But bad writing is is a whole 'nother issue.
  #16  
Old 08-06-2019, 11:08 AM
Sangahyando is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Mar 2015
Posts: 2,478
Quote:
Originally Posted by Bayaker View Post
I can't speak for Mama Zappa, but the moment that lizards from outer space show up seems utterly absurd from any angle I look at it. It might make for a sci-fi story, but alternate history or historical fiction it ain't. There needs to be a plausible change to real-life history that makes the further changes that grow out of it as the timeline inches toward the present seem believable.
I cannot help but feel that this is an overly restrictive and constrictive definition of alternate history -- though, Bayaker, you may well tell me that the cognoscenti in these subjects are unanimous in holding this opinion; and I'd have nothing learned to cite in opposition, just my non-expert sentiments. I'm put rather in mind of the long-ago thing from scholars of classical drama, about the "unities": a play must take place in one location; in one highly-circumscribed period of time; and must be about a single sequence of actions (no sub-plots). Smacks to me a little, of choosing to limit life and reduce its potential fun-content, "just because".

For sure, a good deal of Turtledove's stuff is -- no error -- fantasy, and could not be classed in any sense-making way, as alternate history. But --pace JohnT's thoughts below, elaborating on the issue (on which thoughts, I'm not enough of a military-matters buff to have a valid opinion): I cannot but feel, "whyever should a recounting of Earth history following on from an invasion of the planet by beings from outer space, not qualify as alternate history?"

As said upthread, in the main I loved Worldwar -- it was via that series that I first discovered Turtledove. Bayaker -- if I'm right, you don't necessarily consider that Worldwar is in itself rubbish -- though if you do, you have every right to your opinion ! -- just that in your view, it is not alternate history. One thing which I like about Worldwar, is that Harry actually had to put his imagination to work for this series -- there's no obvious real-world template for a global conflict (all aspects), on not-far-from-equal terms re technology: between humans, and would-be invading-and-conquering beings with a highly different outlook on life.

Quote:
Originally Posted by JohnT View Post
Hell, I just looked at the WorldWar books as an exercise in asking "if you put the 1991-era Gulf War army (bigger, yes!) in the middle of WW2, gave the GWA severe resupply issues.... could the Gulf War army beat the world?"
"Tangent" from this thread -- Googling re "things Turtledove", I found in the Wiki article on him, mention of of something relatively new from him, of which I'd hitherto known nothing. Published in 2016, it seems -- a few short stories: "State of Jefferson stories". According to Wiki, these are "light alternate history tales set in a world where sasquatches and some related cryptids are real. However, unlike common popular descriptions of such creatures as less evolved primates, here they are essentially human beings, and have been integrated into society." It would appear that the point of divergence here, is the secession in 1919 of several counties in northern California and southern Oregon, joining to form the new US state of Jefferson: one gathers that the sasquatches and other things became known to their human neighbours, post-1919.

I'll admit to being a sucker for "yetis and bigfoots and suchlike critters", and immediately felt ready to take a gamble on giving these stories a try. Seems that I may have problems there -- in the UK, Amazon and Abe Books seem not to have heard of them.

Bayaker, I'd reckon that by your rigorous standards, this "State of Jefferson" stuff is in no way alternate history; but with my liking for cryptozoological nonsense, I fancy it anyhow.
  #17  
Old 08-06-2019, 11:14 AM
JohnT's Avatar
JohnT is offline
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Jul 2001
Location: San Antonio, TX
Posts: 23,885
I'm not a military buff either, but Harry's description of the Lizard's technology sounded a hell of a lot like descriptions of (then) modern technology, even down to the CD-ROM's the Lizards used.

Last edited by JohnT; 08-06-2019 at 11:14 AM.
  #18  
Old 08-06-2019, 11:45 AM
Sangahyando is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Mar 2015
Posts: 2,478
In actual understanding of and coping with technology, I'm somewhere around 1319 AD -- and in interest in the details of same, "nowhere ever"; however -- boils down, likely, to my reaction to Worldwar quickly becoming, effectively, much like yours: "we're restless, chaotic, and imaginative / inventive / imitative / guileful to the nth degree; they're highly conservative and stick-in-the-mud-ish, and definitely not imaginative, and painfully straightforward and honest -- and in time, their supply of their superior gear will irreplaceably run out -- good luck with that, Lizards". ( I have a bit of a sneaking fondness for the Lizards; in some ways, they're better and more ethical folk, than we are .)
  #19  
Old 08-06-2019, 01:14 PM
naita is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Jun 2002
Location: Norway
Posts: 6,651
Anyone also read Guy Gavriel Kay's "real history inspired" novels? Such as Sailing to Sarantium or The Lions of Al-Rassan?

Not looking to derail, mind you, just curious how readers of both Kay and Turtledove would judge Turtledove in comparison.

Last edited by naita; 08-06-2019 at 01:16 PM.
  #20  
Old 08-06-2019, 01:47 PM
Tamerlane is offline
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Oct 2000
Location: SF Bay Area, California
Posts: 13,874
Quote:
Originally Posted by DrFidelius View Post
Thank you.
You cannot just file the serial numbers off history and present it as your own stories.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Bayaker View Post
Can you elaborate on what you mean by this?

Historical fiction and alternate histories are pretty much required to include real people and events,
This kind of gets to the core of what bugged me about the Videssos novels. Because they aren't specifically marketed or described as historical fiction or alternate history. Or at least they weren't when they first came out in the late 1980's. Rather they were marketed as fantasy, where a( historical )chunk of one of Caesar's legions is magically transported to a fantasy world where magic exists. So the historicity of the Roman legion is acknowledged. But...

The cribbing( wholesale copying )from Byzantine history is not. All the names are changed and the geography is partially flip-flopped, but that is what it is. If you were unfamiliar with the period you would never know and it came off to me as not just lazy, but as disingenuous. Like he was passing off something as his own creation, when instead he just filed the serial numbers off history and presented it as his own story . Oh and added magic.

It's sort of a different today - Turtledove is now known for being that alternative history guy and the source material is widely known. Maybe these days it is marketed as such. But back then I found it irritating, because it wasn't fantasy world-building in a creative sense but rather looked like a camouflaged re-write.

Again, they're perfectly decent novels. If they had been nakedly 'Roman legion is transported to an alternate Byzantine empire where magic exists', I'd have been less critical. But from my perspective at the time he was cheating .

Last edited by Tamerlane; 08-06-2019 at 01:51 PM.
  #21  
Old 08-06-2019, 01:50 PM
Bayaker is online now
Guest
 
Join Date: Dec 2016
Location: A town on Galveston Bay
Posts: 4,160
The "rigorous standards" problem with Alternative History as a genre is in my own mind. I'm a history buff, and read standard fiction(anything from Dickens to Hemingway to Christie) as a diversion. Occasionally I have found AH novels like Harris' Fatherland, Dick's The Man in the High Castle, etc.

Since first seeing this thread, and guided by other posters here, a little googling tells me that fantastical elements are quite common in AH, and I was simply unaware. I just wish there were different names for "tweak real history and imagine what else would change", "history messed with by science fiction/future technology", and "historical settings with fantastical critters/magic".
  #22  
Old 08-06-2019, 02:52 PM
Sangahyando is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Mar 2015
Posts: 2,478
Thoughts concerning the "Videssos Universe", lead me on to the S.M. Stirling / David Drake collaborative The General / Raj Whitehall series; the first few volumes of which I read and enjoyed -- "faded out" on it after that, with several more volumes not tackled -- that contributed-to, by something of a falling-out on my part, with Mr. Stirling's works in general: I should perhaps admit to being something of a hard-to-please so-and-so, myself.

For most of my reading of this series: I just reckoned it to be happening on a total "fantasy planet". Closer-than-hitherto looking at the map included in the books, of the area concerned in books' action, of the planet Bellevue: revealed to me that said map -- possibly suspectable of being deliberately made less clear than it might be, as to what was sea and what land -- was a "not-all-that-distorted distortion", of the real-world Mediterranean basin. From my recollection, the books' text fell in with the basic idea of: north and west of same, civilised and worthwhile people -- south and east ditto, less so. And I seem dimly to recall having read years ago, a suggestion that the plots of the General / RW books, owe at least something to the exploits of the -- Byzantine, I think -- general Belisarius, in "our time-line / our world".

It might not be altogether conspiracy-theory nutty stuff: to suspect that in this particular area of creative writing, "they're all at it".
  #23  
Old 08-06-2019, 03:39 PM
Horatius is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Dec 2002
Location: Ottawa, ON
Posts: 1,247
Quote:
Originally Posted by Bayaker View Post
This thread is like a heads-up warning for me. Thanks guys!

Just this week I discovered Turtledove at my library and started reading How Few Remain. I'm only about a hundred pages in, but so far I like that he does a "retelling" or "flipping over" of actual history. The fact that he is dropping in just about anybody who was anybody in the mid-to-late nineteenth century, like he is the Forrest Gump of authors, is a bit worrying.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Sangahyando View Post
I greatly enjoyed Ruled Britannia. In my experience, his stand-alone novels and / or single-volume collaborations -- or short-story works -- often display more originality and less "bloat", than his long series are apt to do: could name, as well as Ruled Britannia: Guns of the South, A World of Difference, Household Gods, A Different Flesh.

How Few Remain is probably the best book in that particular series, largely because I expect it started off as one of his one-off stories, without an original intent to turn it into a series. He basically explores the what-if possibilities of a Confederate win in the US Civil War, and how the inevitable tensions between the two new countries would evolve over the first few decades. Thus, it really is an "alternative" history, and not just a "filed off serial numbers" re-telling of actual history.

But then it went and did really well, and he decided to cash in. The follow-on books are basically just "What if WWI and WWII happened in North America?". By the time he gets to WWII, it's just The Nazis all over again, with white Southerners replacing Hitler and the Germans, and African Americans replacing the Jews.
  #24  
Old 08-06-2019, 04:27 PM
Rick Kitchen's Avatar
Rick Kitchen is online now
Guest
 
Join Date: Mar 1999
Location: Citrus Heights, CA, USA
Posts: 17,510
Quote:
Originally Posted by naita View Post
Anyone also read Guy Gavriel Kay's "real history inspired" novels? Such as Sailing to Sarantium or The Lions of Al-Rassan?

Not looking to derail, mind you, just curious how readers of both Kay and Turtledove would judge Turtledove in comparison.
Kay is my favorite writer in the English language. His words make me cry. My absolute favorite of his is "Tigana", which is set in a Renaissance Italy-cognate. A wizard sets out to conquer a country, and in the process, his son is killed in the war, and the wizard gets his revenge by conquering the enemy, wiping it off the face of the earth, and then putting a curse on the nation so that nobody remembers that the country ever existed, except for its former inhabitants. But the book goes further, in that the wizard is not an all-black villain, but has his moments. Even a girl from Tigana, who has set out to assassinate him, falls in love with him.
  #25  
Old 08-06-2019, 04:39 PM
PastTense is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Jan 2013
Posts: 7,821
He came out with a new book last month: Alpha and Omega
Quote:
What would happen if the ancient prophecy of the End of Days came true? It is certainly the last thing Eric Katz, a secular archaeologist from Los Angeles, expects during what should be a routine dig in Jerusalem. But perhaps higher forces have something else in mind when a sign presaging the rising of the Third Temple is located in America, a dirty bomb is detonated in downtown Tel Aviv, and events conspire to place a team of archaeologists in the tunnels deep under the Temple Mount. It is there that Eric is witness to a discovery of such monumental proportions that nothing will ever be the same again.

Harry Turtledove is the master at portraying ordinary people caught up in extraordinary events, and what is more extraordinary than the incontrovertible proof that there truly is a higher force controlling human destiny? But as to what that force desires . . . well, that is the question.
  #26  
Old 08-06-2019, 06:47 PM
John DiFool's Avatar
John DiFool is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Jun 2006
Location: Jacksonville, FL
Posts: 18,323
Quote:
Originally Posted by Bayaker View Post
The "rigorous standards" problem with Alternative History as a genre is in my own mind. I'm a history buff, and read standard fiction(anything from Dickens to Hemingway to Christie) as a diversion. Occasionally I have found AH novels like Harris' Fatherland, Dick's The Man in the High Castle, etc.

Since first seeing this thread, and guided by other posters here, a little googling tells me that fantastical elements are quite common in AH, and I was simply unaware. I just wish there were different names for "tweak real history and imagine what else would change", "history messed with by science fiction/future technology", and "historical settings with fantastical critters/magic".
TV Tropes, Sliding Scale of Alternate History Plausibility
  #27  
Old 08-07-2019, 06:49 AM
Sangahyando is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Mar 2015
Posts: 2,478
Quote:
Originally Posted by Horatius View Post
How Few Remain is probably the best book in that particular series, largely because I expect it started off as one of his one-off stories, without an original intent to turn it into a series. He basically explores the what-if possibilities of a Confederate win in the US Civil War, and how the inevitable tensions between the two new countries would evolve over the first few decades. Thus, it really is an "alternative" history, and not just a "filed off serial numbers" re-telling of actual history.

But then it went and did really well, and he decided to cash in. The follow-on books are basically just "What if WWI and WWII happened in North America?". By the time he gets to WWII, it's just The Nazis all over again, with white Southerners replacing Hitler and the Germans, and African Americans replacing the Jews.
My sentiments concerning How Few Remain and the series which it spawned, match closely with yours -- I find HFR head-and-shoulders above the endless stream of following-on books spanning mid-1910s to mid-1940s (I did "religiously" read the whole series, but doing so was at times a struggle). There is IMO a fair amount of good stuff in this "child of HFR" series; but it is, semi-quoting you as above, very largely "regurgitating of real history with the serial numbers filed off" -- the lazy-and easy way to do it, which Turtledove often goes for.

IIRC, the "child series" starts with World War I breaking out in late summer 1914. exactly as in our time-line; the only difference being that in this alternate, the USA lines up immediately and automatically as it were, with the Central Powers, and the CSA with the Entente. John DiFool's Trope Type 1, "Hard Alternate History" would -- if I've got this right -- have things in Europe likely having gone significantly differently from actual history, following on from an 1862 point of divergence (even if the "divergence" happened in the New World) -- not Princip and the Archduke and June 28th 1914, exactly as in our time-line. And Turtledove goes on and on, just with a "flip-over" concerning basic line-ups in World Wars I and II -- with, from the point of view of the USA (a not-all-that-nice place, but less nasty than the CSA) Germany and her allies being, relatively, the good guys. (In the series's last book, after WWII's end and with US forces occupying the Confederacy, he actually becomes inventive and original with the action which he recounts; and lo and behold, the series then finishes !)

I often experience wonder and, to be honest, some regret, that this series -- IMO not his best series, to say nothing of "stand-alones" -- seems to receive a great deal of attention, often at the expense of other works by HT. I'd hazard a guess, as a non-American, that the great popularity of this "WWI and II in North America" series has a lot to do with its striking a particular chord with that majority of Turtledove's readership, who are US citizens. There at least used to be some years ago, a Yahoo! HT on-line discussion group, which I frequented on-and-off; most participants were folk from the US, and I don't think I'm exaggerating when I say that likely 90% of the traffic on that board, was about this "WW's in NA" series. I sometimes found this infuriating -- this author, of all authors, has written so very much else -- including a good deal of material which is different in all particulars.

My biggest single "beef" with this series, is the thing with the US military occupation of Canada, over -- all-but -- the three decades spanned by the series. If Turtledove has ever come up with something which sticks in my throat as highly implausible, it is this (with reptilian invaders from space, or navies which include trained sea-monsters with human pilots, it's for me "a different question"). I know that there aren't all that many people in Canada, except in the narrow-ish strip just north of the US border; but -- even with the action taken, being on the part of a militaristic nation -- the sheer amount of manpower / resources / money which would have been necessary for this job, for so long: destroys credibility for me.

Quote:
Originally Posted by PastTense View Post
He came out with a new book last month: Alpha and Omega
One has to feel -- dear Lord ! This guy pours material out in a constant torrent; he never, ever stops !
  #28  
Old 08-07-2019, 08:53 AM
Horatius is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Dec 2002
Location: Ottawa, ON
Posts: 1,247
Quote:
Originally Posted by Sangahyando View Post
My sentiments concerning How Few Remain and the series which it spawned, match closely with yours -- I find HFR head-and-shoulders above the endless stream of following-on books spanning mid-1910s to mid-1940s (I did "religiously" read the whole series, but doing so was at times a struggle).


Heh! Then we're even closer together in opinion than you thought! I thought his name for the last book, "In At The Death", was just about perfect, because that's how I felt: "I've gone this far through the horrors of war, now I just want to say I saw it through to the bitter end!"
  #29  
Old 08-07-2019, 02:29 PM
Sangahyando is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Mar 2015
Posts: 2,478
Quote:
Originally Posted by Horatius View Post
Heh! Then we're even closer together in opinion than you thought! I thought his name for the last book, "In At The Death", was just about perfect, because that's how I felt: "I've gone this far through the horrors of war, now I just want to say I saw it through to the bitter end!"
Up there among possible good names for the last book in the series -- alongside such as "Harry -- please ! MAKE IT STOP !!"

I maybe exaggerated a little, as regards tedium ploughing through this lot -- even in what were for me, the duller middle reaches of the series's World War II; I always had a few favourite characters, from whose "viewpoint" turns when they came up, I always got pleasure. I'll confess to having even a little bit of a soft spot for Jake Featherston: sure, he's a genocidal maniac -- but for me he has also, just a few admirable / likeable traits.
  #30  
Old 08-07-2019, 09:45 PM
Mama Zappa is offline
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Feb 2003
Posts: 12,422
Quote:
Originally Posted by Sangahyando View Post
...
This tends to be a "thorny thicket" for alternate-history aficionados. I gather that the "purist" position here, is that no character born after the point of divergence, is admissible: because everything is liable to start changing, very rapidly -- parents may well not meet each other, contrary to how things went in "Our Time-Line", etc. According to this strict standpoint, Turtledove does a lot of cheating in his Southern Victory / TL191 series, which features a number of characters from OTL, in roles with varying degrees of similarity to their OTL ones. With TL191's point of divergence being 1862: perhaps he could be "allowed", those of such characters who were born in the 1870s, quite soon after the POD (Al Smith, Herbert Hoover, Winston Churchill, who is leader of enemy Britain in the series's World War II); but such who were born later -- say Franklin D. Roosevelt, George Patton, Douglas MacArthur (there is IIRC a "dead ringer" for him, in the series), all 1880s-born: he's getting onto dodgy ground.
....

.....
I'm in agreement with your take on later-born people in the alternate histories. In the Worldwar series, the first 4 at least, his use of real people as characters felt right. I don't honestly recall how much he used OTL real people in the second series (the one set 25+ years later). Anything beyond that, well, as you say, Churchill may well have still been born, but he would not be the same person we learned about in history class.

This issue is why I've always had a love-hate relationship with the Star Trek alternate-universe stories. As fun as the DS9 versions were in particular, the odds that EVERYONE had a parallel and they all wound up in the same place has always annoyed me.
  #31  
Old 08-07-2019, 11:21 PM
Jonathan Chance is online now
Domo Arigato Mister Moderato
Moderator
 
Join Date: Apr 2000
Location: On the run with Kilroy
Posts: 23,007
Quote:
Originally Posted by Sangahyando View Post
( I have a bit of a sneaking fondness for the Lizards; in some ways, they're better and more ethical folk, than we are .)
This is, actually, the central ethical dilemma of the books.

Yes, yes, I know. They're alien invaders. They're trying to take over Earth. I think we all agree that's bad.

But the fact is by any rational standard, the lizards are simply better people that most humans. They're open, honest, trustworthy and capable of deciding to work together beyond their own interests to achieve a greater goal.

Contrast that with humans who are constantly portrayed as scheming, lying and unreliable - not just to the lizards but to each other - and continually do things against any form of greater good.

So beyond the military aspects - better win fast, scaly - the reader is also presented with the conundrum that the lizards we meet and see most often are much more decent beings than most of the humans we see. You can be antagonistic toward the lizard's goals while still liking them as characters. Especially when some of the human protagonists are Molotov and von Ribbentrop and such.
  #32  
Old 08-08-2019, 08:55 AM
Quimby is online now
Guest
 
Join Date: May 1999
Location: NJ
Posts: 8,471
A few thoughts on this thread:

I was the person quoted in the OP. I feel famous
As it turned out while I didn't dislike In Darkest Europe, it didn't feel like it lived up to its interesting premise.

I find HT very readable. I like his writing style where you get little vignettes that often jump perspective but he does sometimes get repetitive which can be frustrating for the reader.

To the person who started How Few Remain and is getting scared off, I would suggest you continue with the Great War books. They are good reads and WWI is an underutilized setting in any fiction these days.

If you want to try a HT book that is very different, I would suggest The Case of the Toxic Spell Dump.

P.S. It might be helpful to get more traffic to this thread to mention Turtledove in the subject. That way people who read his fiction would know it is something they may be interested in.
  #33  
Old 08-08-2019, 09:25 AM
Bayaker is online now
Guest
 
Join Date: Dec 2016
Location: A town on Galveston Bay
Posts: 4,160
Quote:
Originally Posted by Quimby View Post
...To the person who started How Few Remain and is getting scared off, I would suggest you continue with the Great War books. They are good reads and WWI is an underutilized setting in any fiction these days...
If you mean me, I won't get 'scared off', I'll just inquire a bit about other HT novels before snatching them off the shelf. I finished How Few Remain a few days ago, and look forward to the Great War books. Unless aliens or wizards show up I'll probably enjoy them
  #34  
Old 08-08-2019, 09:26 AM
LoneRhino is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Jul 2017
Posts: 164
I just read the Worldwar series and I'm currently reading the first Colonization book. While I love the premise and the overall story, HT's style of writing is driving me crazy. There is a lot of repetitiveness there. The Worldwar series could have been three books instead of four if he didn't feel the need to reintroduce each character every time he returned to them. I read How Few Remain years ago and enjoyed it. I started to read his Great War Trilogy but stopped because it felt like the story just became tedious and boring.
  #35  
Old 08-08-2019, 09:26 AM
MrAtoz is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Mar 2001
Posts: 1,635
Quote:
Originally Posted by Jonathan Chance View Post
This is, actually, the central ethical dilemma of the books.

Yes, yes, I know. They're alien invaders. They're trying to take over Earth. I think we all agree that's bad.

But the fact is by any rational standard, the lizards are simply better people that most humans. They're open, honest, trustworthy and capable of deciding to work together beyond their own interests to achieve a greater goal.

Contrast that with humans who are constantly portrayed as scheming, lying and unreliable - not just to the lizards but to each other - and continually do things against any form of greater good.
Indeed, the Lizards are horrified when they discover the Holocaust. Molotov's bragging about the assassination of the Czar and his family also disgusts them.

I credit the Worldwar series for acquainting me with Mordechai Anielewicz, who I had never heard of before Turtledove made him a major character.
  #36  
Old 08-08-2019, 10:25 AM
Jonathan Chance is online now
Domo Arigato Mister Moderato
Moderator
 
Join Date: Apr 2000
Location: On the run with Kilroy
Posts: 23,007
Quote:
Originally Posted by MrAtoz View Post
Indeed, the Lizards are horrified when they discover the Holocaust. Molotov's bragging about the assassination of the Czar and his family also disgusts them.

I credit the Worldwar series for acquainting me with Mordechai Anielewicz, who I had never heard of before Turtledove made him a major character.
I, too, was unaware of Anielewicz prior to the WorldWar series. A little bonus of the Turtledove books is learning about real people.

Or as an easter egg spotting real people in the books. G Gordon Liddy is clearly in the Colonization books without ever being properly identified. There are others.

Yeah, the Lizards REALLY find humans problematic. I can't blame them for being so horrified when they start to get a feel for some of our collective behavior.
  #37  
Old 08-09-2019, 10:25 AM
Mama Zappa is offline
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Feb 2003
Posts: 12,422
Quote:
Originally Posted by Jonathan Chance View Post
I, too, was unaware of Anielewicz prior to the WorldWar series. A little bonus of the Turtledove books is learning about real people.
...

Yeah, the Lizards REALLY find humans problematic. I can't blame them for being so horrified when they start to get a feel for some of our collective behavior.
Ditto on Anielewicz.

I thought it was funny when, among other undesirable side effects, the lizards' reaction to ginger caused their breeding behaviors to more closely mimic humans' constant willingness - something that, IIRC, wasn't realized until 20 years later when the females arrived (the effect was on the females).

When we read the first 4 books, I sent copies of them to my brother for Christmas, along with a box of ginger snaps .
  #38  
Old 08-09-2019, 11:15 AM
Sangahyando is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Mar 2015
Posts: 2,478
Quote:
Originally Posted by Jonathan Chance View Post
This is, actually, the central ethical dilemma of the books.

Yes, yes, I know. They're alien invaders. They're trying to take over Earth. I think we all agree that's bad.

But the fact is by any rational standard, the lizards are simply better people that most humans. They're open, honest, trustworthy and capable of deciding to work together beyond their own interests to achieve a greater goal.

Contrast that with humans who are constantly portrayed as scheming, lying and unreliable - not just to the lizards but to each other - and continually do things against any form of greater good.

So beyond the military aspects - better win fast, scaly - the reader is also presented with the conundrum that the lizards we meet and see most often are much more decent beings than most of the humans we see. You can be antagonistic toward the lizard's goals while still liking them as characters. Especially when some of the human protagonists are Molotov and von Ribbentrop and such.
I'm glad that others besides me, see positive qualities in the Lizards and experience inclinations toward liking them; while definitely not wanting them to conquer our planet, having them for all foreseeable time the rulers, and us relegated to the "ruled".

I get the impression that many readers are 100% Lizard-loathers, with a totally black / white view of the whole matter. Have seen much heated opprobrium and hate directed at Sam Yeager for his part, in the Colonisation series, in having it be agreed, and happen: that the Race wreaks nuclear destruction on one US city, in retribution for the covert US attack which destroyed a number of ships of the colonisation fleet. These folk see Sam, for this, as purely and simply a vile traitor to his species and his planet. I feel more sympathy for him: his position can be seen as -- while he'd rather not have the Lizards on Earth, and would prefer for us never to have heard of them: they're here, and a force very much to be reckoned with. Plus, he has personally known Lizards, and on the whole liked them as individuals, ever since the first days of the invasion -- he regards them as people, entitled to justice and to honourable treatment even in war. IIRC, he's shown as doing much agonising over the alternatives available re the Lizards' wrath over the colonisation-fleet attacks -- finally doing as he does, on the basis that in his estimation, "Indianapolis for the fleet", with the slate then wiped clean and normal relations resuming; looks like the least bad of assorted outcomes, all of them decidedly bad.

I found, especially among participants in the Turtledove Yahoo! group which I mentioned upthread, many readers highly ready with total condemnation and scorn, toward all three members of the Yeager family, for assorted perceivedly sub-optimal conduct on their part. These folk often seemed to couple this, with declaring what righteous characters they themselves were -- they would never even dream of acting so basely. My reaction to this stuff tends to be, "Right, bully for you, chum -- let's move on to something more interesting." Am apt to feel, as regards the Yeagers' various sexual irregularities: humans do frequently depart from the full-on straight and narrow (fiction would be duller, if they never did), and a situation of a massive planetary invasion by highly powerful aliens, would be a situation -- if ever there were one such -- of everything feeling thrown into chaos and confusion, and prevalent sentiments of "let's seize the moment -- it looks as though the end of everything is upon us".


Quote:
Originally Posted by Quimby View Post
A few thoughts on this thread:

I was the person quoted in the OP. I feel famous
As it turned out while I didn't dislike In Darkest Europe, it didn't feel like it lived up to its interesting premise.
I didn't by any means dislike the novel itself -- a pretty enjoyable read -- just, my opinion of the premise is that it's artificial and corny in an often-typical Turtledove way: he just does a "flip-over" of a real-world political / historical / whatever situation. I'm wondering, as per my OP, whether this is giving Harry a ready-made recipe for churning out novel after novel set in this alternate; the whole thing, as it went on, getting progressively more stale. (If he does indeed do further ones: even if the heroes continue to be [haven't got my copy to hand] the Arab guy and his Jewish sidekick -- I'd hope that at least he'd vary things by visiting other parts of Europe / Christendom, than just Italy: a different country for each book, would be nice.)

Quote:
P.S. It might be helpful to get more traffic to this thread to mention Turtledove in the subject. That way people who read his fiction would know it is something they may be interested in.
I titled the thread as I did, because I've occasionally felt uncomfortably, that few Dopers have any interest in Turtledove (from this thread, there seem more than I'd perhaps been imagining). Have imagined myself, here, an unusually keen, well, "semi-fan" -- am acutely aware of the aspects of him that I don't like. Feared that if I included the dreaded T-name in the title, there would arise a great chorus of, "Oh, no -- it's him again, blah-ing on about HIM !" -- and little or no response.

Quote:
Originally Posted by MrAtoz View Post
Indeed, the Lizards are horrified when they discover the Holocaust. Molotov's bragging about the assassination of the Czar and his family also disgusts them.
I understand that part of the latter disgust, is over an emperor and his family being treated so -- with the Lizards' tremendous reverence for their own Emperor. But, it's true, re "nobodies" as well: they are shocked by humans' easy, casual and often large-scale bloodthirstiness toward each other.

Quote:
I credit the Worldwar series for acquainting me with Mordechai Anielewicz, who I had never heard of before Turtledove made him a major character.
Anielewicz was a new "real-world" character to me too, as of my reading the series. I haven't re-read it for a good few years: have to admit to having needed just now to do a bit of pondering and looking-up, to distinguish clearly in my mind: Anielewicz, and the doctor Moishe Russie -- another of the series's Polish-Jewish characters, who I believe is Turtledove's own creation.

Last edited by Sangahyando; 08-09-2019 at 11:18 AM.
  #39  
Old 08-09-2019, 12:25 PM
Darth Sensitive is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Aug 2007
Location: O-K-L-A-H-O-M-A
Posts: 2,562
I personally like Turtledove's "history taken to a chop shop and stripped for parts" approach most of the time. "In the Presence of Mine Enemies" worked for me. "The Man with the Iron Heart" didn't; either he or I was too deeply touched by the war in Iraq at the time and couldn't disconnect ourselves from the modern parallels enough to enjoy it. I liked "Joe Steele" too, though that was less filing off the serial number of the rise of Stalin and just a straight up repainting.

I also like his work that's less based off true history. "The War That Came Early" and "Hot War" series were both pretty good, and don't have any serial numbers scratched off that I know of. I read "Alpha and Omega" and enjoyed it too.

And alien invasion in the middle of WWII is completely disconnected from the other types, but it's fun.

However, what I like most about Turtledove is his skill at writing big world altering events through the point of view of anonymous people at the bottom. I don't mind having Robert E. Lee as a viewpoint character, but I really enjoy following grunts and civilians through the wars (even if he does feel the need to constantly remind us that the redheaded guy in the US navy sunburns easily - I get that he does it to recenter us on the character, it just can become a bit much). War is hell for his characters, both on the front lines and at home, and I appreciate that he humanizes them (even the invading aliens).

He also really shines in short stories. Behind that link is one from the Sasquatches in the PNW series, but I really personally love "The Eighth-Grade History Class Visits the Hebrew Home for the Aging"; it's personally one of my all time favorites.

I started the Supervolcano books earlier this summer, and I'm enjoying that it's not a big war that's just a retelling of the fall of the Aztec empire. Just a scattered family doing their best (I'm one book down, so don't tell me if it becomes the fall of the Aztecs in book 2).
  #40  
Old 08-10-2019, 08:34 AM
Meurglys is offline
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Jul 2003
Location: Edinburgh
Posts: 2,367
I wouldn't say was a fun but I have read 15+ of his books, and started quite a few others. I tend to read first volumes of series when they come out but lose the urge to continue by the time v2 appears...

My favourite series of his, though, is the Supervolcano trilogy. As Darth says, it's all about the people actually affected, with nothing set in the corridors of power, except maybe the local mayor's office! And a couple of the officers running a displaced persons camp, iirc. To me, it wasd a welcome change from his books where every second character was an analog of a historical figure...

I made notes on all three volumes - v1 can be found here, and includes links to the other two...
  #41  
Old 08-11-2019, 07:14 AM
Sangahyando is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Mar 2015
Posts: 2,478
Quote:
Originally Posted by Darth Sensitive View Post
However, what I like most about Turtledove is his skill at writing big world altering events through the point of view of anonymous people at the bottom. I don't mind having Robert E. Lee as a viewpoint character, but I really enjoy following grunts and civilians through the wars (even if he does feel the need to constantly remind us that the redheaded guy in the US navy sunburns easily - I get that he does it to recenter us on the character, it just can become a bit much). War is hell for his characters, both on the front lines and at home, and I appreciate that he humanizes them (even the invading aliens).
(My bolding) -- yes: poor old highly-sun-sensitive Sam Carsten -- many readers seem to come to thoroughly hate him, just because Harry harps so endlessly on this trait of this character. I've also come across folk who loathe the Quebecqois (sp?) characters in this series, reckoning them and the whole Republic of Quebec element a complete waste of time, space, and everything. (I'm decidedly fond of the Quebec bunch, including their "adopted by marriage" member Dr. O'Doull.) One of the haters was wont to get particularly irate about "that bloody tedious old Quebecquois farmer who was always talking to his horse"...

Quote:
He also really shines in short stories. Behind that link is one from the Sasquatches in the PNW series, but I really personally love "The Eighth-Grade History Class Visits the Hebrew Home for the Aging"; it's personally one of my all time favorites.
Thank you for this -- gives access to a number of Turtledove short stories, for which I'm very grateful. The "State of Jefferson" (Sasquatches) one, is a fun read -- I love the Flintstones-ish incongruity of a sector of basically benign, almost cliche-standard, US society, where the protagonist and his family just happen to belong to a nine-feet-tall-and-covered-in-hair subset of the population.

Have read a fair number of short stories by HT, published in book form: those accessed via your link, mostly new to me: once more, thanks.

On the whole, I've found his short stories and most of his stand-alone novels to be, for me, enjoyable reading, and generally well executed and worthwhile. (A few of the stand-alone novels, I've disliked -- for assorted reasons, sometimes of the "it isn't him, it's me" kind.) It would rather seem that it's chiefly in his series, that his annoying qualities tend to come to the fore.

Quote:
I started the Supervolcano books earlier this summer, and I'm enjoying that it's not a big war that's just a retelling of the fall of the Aztec empire. Just a scattered family doing their best (I'm one book down, so don't tell me if it becomes the fall of the Aztecs in book 2).
Quote:
Originally Posted by Meurglys View Post
I wouldn't say was a fun but I have read 15+ of his books, and started quite a few others. I tend to read first volumes of series when they come out but lose the urge to continue by the time v2 appears...

My favourite series of his, though, is the Supervolcano trilogy. As Darth says, it's all about the people actually affected, with nothing set in the corridors of power, except maybe the local mayor's office! And a couple of the officers running a displaced persons camp, iirc. To me, it wasd a welcome change from his books where every second character was an analog of a historical figure...

I made notes on all three volumes - v1 can be found here, and includes links to the other two...
Meurglys: thanks for link -- but I think I'd rather (should it happen at all) tackle the Supervolcano books direct, without maybe-preconceptions. Over -- probably -- most of the past decade, I would appear to have come to a conclusion to the effect that "any further series by Harry, are going to suck: phoning-it-in-cranking / churning-it-out-on-autopilot, etc."; so I've avoided all his more recent series. Various posts in this thread, have me wondering whether I've been too hasty / prejudiced in this. Especially now that he seems to have got World War II out of his system. For a while, he seemed to be utterly endlessly strip-mining that particular source of inspiration. I greatly liked Worldwar and the Darkness series; and thought the "TL191" (profuse follow-on from How Few Remain) series was OK; but after that, he just seemed to spew out series after series connected with the 1939 - 45 "unpleasantness", causing me to want to yell, "ENOUGH !" I feel that I should give some of his more recent series, including Supervolcano, a shot.
  #42  
Old 08-11-2019, 07:54 AM
Jonathan Chance is online now
Domo Arigato Mister Moderato
Moderator
 
Join Date: Apr 2000
Location: On the run with Kilroy
Posts: 23,007
Well, one of the things I realized early is that Turtledove doesn't primarily write alternative history. Rather, he writes military fiction with an alt-history twist.

His most successful series have been military fiction even more so than, say, Clancy's books are.

Venturing out from that is some great work on his part. But his central conflicts tend to be military in nature.
  #43  
Old 08-11-2019, 11:21 AM
Sangahyando is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Mar 2015
Posts: 2,478
Fair enough: just -- there have been many other wars in human history, besides that business with Adolf, Benito, and their Japanese counterparts. For a while, Turtledove seemed to have got fixated on that one to the point of, "there is no good thing that there can't be too much of".
Reply

Bookmarks

Thread Tools
Display Modes

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is Off
HTML code is Off

Forum Jump


All times are GMT -5. The time now is 05:28 PM.

Powered by vBulletin® Version 3.8.7
Copyright ©2000 - 2019, vBulletin Solutions, Inc.

Send questions for Cecil Adams to: cecil@straightdope.com

Send comments about this website to: webmaster@straightdope.com

Terms of Use / Privacy Policy

Advertise on the Straight Dope!
(Your direct line to thousands of the smartest, hippest people on the planet, plus a few total dipsticks.)

Copyright 2019 STM Reader, LLC.

 
Copyright © 2017