Tue 20 Jan 2009
Harry Turtledove is a renowned historian; he’s an expert in Byzantine history, and I’ve been told that there aren’t very many of those in the U.S., total. The title of his dissertation, produced at UCLA, is (according to Wikipedia) The Immediate Successors of Justinian: A Study of the Persian Problem and of Continuity and Change in Internal Secular Affairs in the Later Roman Empire During the Reigns of Justin II and Tiberius II Constantine (AD 565–582). (Yes, really.) He’s also a renowned alternate historian, and has written volumes upon volumes of alternate-history books which use different parts of his Byzantine knowledge (by which I both mean ‘of the Byzantine era’ and ‘labyrinthine’) to imbue his works with incredible historical accuracy.
Gunpowder Empire is set towards the end of the twenty-first century, mostly. Jeremy Soltero and his family live most of the year in southern California, where Jeremy and his sister Amanda attend school, but during the summers they live and work in one of the ‘alternates,’ an alternate reality where the Roman Empire still exists and things have not gotten significantly more technologically advanced than they were around 500 C.E. There, they trade things like straight razors and Swiss army knives for grain, which cannot be grown in the amounts needed in their normal reality. Everything is fine, until Jeremy’s mom gets sick and Jeremy’s dad has to take her back . . . and then the transportation and communication setup mysteriously stops working. Are Jeremy and his sister stuck in the alternate? (more…)