Thoughts brought up by a recent thread in CS, which changed direction toward the works of Harry Turtledove – including a particular novel series by him. This is his six-book “Darkness” series. It seems to be held in very low regard, both by people who are not keen on Turtledove anyway; and by Turtledove fans, most of whom seem to see this series as an uncharacteristic “turkey” of the author’s. Browsing around the SDMB, I’ve seen indications of a thread started, I think about ten years ago, giving strongly adverse criticism of the early volumes of the series, which the thread-starter had lately read; I would have “bumped” this thread, but was unable to locate it via the Search facility.
I feel decidedly eccentric in having had from the first, a great liking for Turtledove’s “Darkness” series – sufficient for me to have re-read it a couple of times. Attempted summary, for those unfamiliar: it’s a fantasy-novels cycle recounting the events of a global war, on an Earth-like, human-inhabited planet – modelled on the course of a somewhat simplifies and “mutated” World War II (which conflict this author seems unable to stay away from). In this universe, science and technology are low-level in our terms, and largely replaced by magic (another often-used conceit of the author’s); whereas heavy-duty air, land and sea force is accomplished by the use of trained giant beasts – variously flying, quadrupedal, and aquatic – native to the planet.
The different nations involved in the conflict, are to a considerable extent based by the author on nations of “our world”; but with substituting-and-switching on more than one level. Thus, the “bully nation” which goes around behaving aggressively and invading its neighbours – counterpart in role, to Germany in WWII – has a Latinate-language-sounding name, and the names of its people and places are Italian, largely borrowings of real Italian names. The nation which corresponds to Poland, has proper names from the Anglo-Saxons of our world. (There is some uncertainty as to which our-world nations – or conflations thereof – some of the lesser participants in the conflict, represent.)
I suspect that very many people would – and indeed do – find all the foregoing, utter twaddle and a complete turn-off. Feel that I could easily have gone the same way: but I am so silly in whatever sort, as to enjoy geopolitical-type puzzles and nonsense of this kind. And, I started the series with really no idea what it was going to be about. The first book commences in the Poland-counterpart country, with juvenile characters with Anglo-Saxon-like names attending a school where fearsomely strict discipline obtains, and studying quaint subjects such as herblore. I was thus looking to get a tale set many centuries in the past – likely something resembling Videssos, only in a northern-European setting: was quite blindsided, in a good way, by its turning out instead, to be a World War II “be-alike”, in a familiar-yet-alien milieu – found this surprise a delightful one, and was captivated by the series, instantly and throughout.
This said – I can quite see why many readers find this series – well, I’ve seen epithets ranging from “dire” to “unreadable”, to plain obscene. Would be interested to hear anyone’s views – pro, con, or in-between.