Book Review 2008 #7: Opening Atlantis

Opening Atlantis is the start of a new AH Science fiction series by the indefatigable master of Alternate History, Harry Turtledove.
A gift from a friend from Christmas.


Turtledove’s Alternate Histories have had a broad range of points of divergence, although he has been lately sticking to more recent changes–the Civil War and the Second World War in particular. He has done some more unusual changes– “Down in the Bottomlands” (his only Hugo win to date) posited a Mediterranean basin which never filled up, and the stories of A Different Flesh were set in a North America where the biota were Pleistocene remnants (and pre-Homo Pithecanthropi)
It is this penchant for unusual organisms and environments which inspires Opening Atlantis. What if, tens of millions of years ago, the North American continent ripped asunder, producing two continents, one of which consists mostly of what is in our world the Eastern Seaboard to just beyond the Applachians. This continent, closer to Europe, is discovered in the mid 15th century in the first portion of the volume…and is named Atlantis. This continent, being so isolated, has an unusual set of plant and animal life, with birds of all kinds as the dominant species.
Opening Atlantis tells three stories of Atlantis, ranging from its discovery, through a conflict between two descendants of the original discover, one of whom is a pirate, and finally the story of the Seven Years War (aka the French and Indian War) in Atlantis.
Turtledove focuses on the unusual biota of Atlantis in the first story, and they play an increasingly smaller role in the other two stories. I get the feeling this is partially due to Turtledove focusing on the conflicts between the human characters and the nations, and because of the merciless way that the Europeans and European creatures outcompete the Atlantean birds. Its analogous in our own world to the story of Australia, where the native marsupials have not fared well against invading mammals in the wake of extensive human colonization.
Sure, I would have liked to see more of that versus the more military/political historical aspects, although its all well written and I enjoyed the book immensely.
There is only one problem with the production values of the book. With a fractured and alternate geography like this, the book sorely needs and lacks, a map. The cover art has a fanciful (and clearly) wrong depiction of what the Western hemisphere with Atlantis might look like, but its not correct, and doesn’t have any Atlantean cities on it.
The next volume will be called “The United States of Atlantis” and I suspect it will cover the Revolutionary War in Atlantis and beyond. Would I buy it? Without hesitation.