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Darkness Descending
Harry Turtledove
Tor Books, 461 pages / Earthlight, 594 pages

Darkness Descending
Darkness Descending
Harry Turtledove
Harry Turtledove was born in Los Angeles, California in 1949. He attended UCLA where he received a Ph.D. in Byzantine history in 1977. In 1979, he published his first two novels, Wereblood and Werenight under the pseudonym Eric G. Iverson and continued to use it until 1985. In 1991, he left the Los Angeles County Office of Education, where he worked as a technical writer, and became a full-time writer. He won the Hugo Award for Novella in 1994 for "Down in the Bottomlands" and "Must and Shall" was nominated for both the 1996 Hugo Award for Best Novelette and the 1996 Nebula Award for Best Novelette.

Harry Turtledove Website
ISFDB Bibliography
SF Site Review: American Front
SF Site Review: Household Gods with Judith Tarr
SF Site Review: Colonization: Second Contact
SF Site Review: Into the Darkness
SF Site Review: How Few Remain
SF Site Review: How Few Remain
SF Site Review: Between the Rivers

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Steven H Silver

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In Into the Darkness, Harry Turtledove began to relate the history of a massive war on the magical continent of Derlavai. The cultures and causes of the war had distinct parallels with both World Wars of the twentieth century. In Darkness Descending, Turtledove plays up the parallels with World War II even as he shifts his focus from the field of battle to the societal changes which are occurring because of the world-wide war being fought.

Many of the plot and relationship seeds which Turtledove liberally strewed throughout the first novel have begun to bear fruit in Darkness Descending. Most notable, perhaps, is the fact that Turtledove spends more time with Pekka, the theoretical sorceress who seems to be working towards the discovery of the Derlavai equivalent of an atomic bomb. Even as Turtledove shows her struggles to complete her research under the secrecy edicts placed upon her, he also shows her home-life, making her character a rounded human rather than merely a caricature of a scientist.

Now that the war has moved into is second phase, many of the characters who were on the front lines in the earlier novels now find themselves behind the lines in occupied territory. Perhaps most affected by this are the Kaunian scholar Vanai and the Forthwegian accountant, Ealstan. Although both are living in occupied Forthweg, their treatment differs based on the Algarvian perception of their respective racial backgrounds.

Despite the military backdrop, many of Turtledove's viewpoint characters are women, which allows him to give a very different view of the war, either from those whose lives are left in a shambles or those who are rooting for their warriors. This is an area Turtledove has visited many times before, in the short story "Those Who Lose..." and with some of the characters in his The Great War series. In Darkness Descending, however, he tends to focus even more on these characters. Even the male characters who served in the war during Into the Darkness are being portrayed away from the combat. Some are shown carrying on guerrilla activities after their country's defeat, others are shown living in reasonable comfort in occupied countries. Even the characters still active in the military are given the opportunity to demonstrate how much the war has changed them when they are granted leave to visit their families.

One of the drawbacks of Into the Darkness was the vast cast of characters Turtledove introduced. Although this does not cease to be a problem in Darkness Descending, Turtledove seems more comfortable with the different characters and they have begun to more fully take on their own personalities. In part, this may be due to the fact that many of the characters who were only seen in combat situations in the early novel are now seen in more unique circumstances. With several more novels scheduled to be published in the series, the characters will become still more familiar to both Turtledove and the readers, providing insight into many aspects of Derlavaian culture.

Turtledove envisioned the Derlavai novels as a series and they need to be read as such. Readers who begin with Darkness Descending will be unable to fully understand the situations or the characters. Turtledove infuses the series with the realism found in his alternate history novels and the magic of his fantasy novels, publishing a series which should appeal to all of his fans as well as new readers.

Copyright © 2000 by Steven H Silver

Steven H Silver in one of SF Site's Contributing Editors as well as one of the founders and judges for the Sidewise Award for Alternate History. He is Vice-Chairman of Windycon 28 and Programming Chairman for Chicon 2000. In addition to maintaining several bibliographies and the Harry Turtledove website, Steven is trying to get his short stories published and has recently finished his first novel. Steven is a Hugo Nominee for Best Fan Writer. He lives in Illinois with his wife, daughter and 4000 books.


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