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Into the Darkness
Harry Turtledove
Tor Books, 544 pages

Art: Eric Peterson
Into the Darkness
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: How Few Remain
SF Site Review: Between the Rivers
SF Site Review: Departures

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Steven H Silver

After a generation of peace, the world of Derlavai is on the brink of another global war. The earlier war left the Kaunian kingdoms victorious over the Kingdom of Algarve with the result that portions of Algarve were declared independent of the kingdom, most notably the Duchy of Bari. As Into the Darkness opens, the Duke of Bari has died and Algarve has decided to send in the troops to reclaim the sundered land, disregarding the treaties that ended the previous war.

The situation that Turtledove sets up in Into the Darkness is complex. His world is based on a combination of World Wars I and II with a modicum of magic thrown into the mixture. As his world goes to war, a series of alliances are called into play and kingdoms are dragged into the war. These alliances are every bit as complex as those which helped pull all of Europe into World War I in the early part of this century.

Using the same technique that has worked in the World War series and the Great War series, Turtledove relies on a multitude of viewpoint characters. These characters, who are identified in the list of dramatis personae at the beginning of the novel, range across the class and national spectrum. In Unkerlant, Turtledove views the world through the eyes of Rathar, the Marshal who must deal with Unkerlant's insane monarch, to Leudast, a common foot soldier, to Garivald, a peasant who is happy to be far from the political and military mechanizations which ravage his country. This wide range of characters allows Turtledove to examine different aspects of the cultures of his kingdoms. It also means that Turtledove does not have to focus only on the war.

In fact, some of the most interesting parts of Into the Darkness occur when Turtledove pulls back from the war and turns his attention to the plight of the civilian, whether the Valmieran noblewoman, Krasta, or the Forthwegian scholar of antiquities, Brivibas. While Turtledove only spends a small amount of time examining the magic of Derlavai, he shows a variety of sorcerers, who can be either theoretical or practical, much like our world's scientists, trying to come to grips with the mechanics of sorcery, which follow laws and advancements just as physics does.

Turtledove takes Arthur C. Clarke's dictum that any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic and applies it to Derlavai. Warplanes are replaced by (rather stupid) dragons, submarines by leviathans and tanks by behemoths. A series of magical ley lines run throughout Derlavai and the strength of magic available is based on their proximity, just as electrical lines are necessary in our own world. Human sacrifice can function, temporarily, as a ley line when power is needed.

In order to help the reader distinguish between the different kingdoms, Turtledove has given his characters from any given country names which are based on specific cultures in our own world. Algarvian names tend to be Italian, Forthwegians have Anglo-Saxon names, Gyongyosian names are based on Hungarian nomenclature and Kuusamo names bare a resemblance to Finnish. However, the reader can't take these relationships too far. The cultures of Algarve, Forthweg, Gyongyos, and Kuusamo are not necessarily based on the same nationality as the names.

Into the Darkness is the first novel of a projected six-book series. Although the battles hold up well for the single book, they'll begin to grow stale long before Turtledove reaches the final book. Fortunately, he introduces enough subplots, magical, political, and romantic, that he should have enough to focus on as the series moves towards its end.

Although the situation at the end of Into the Darkness leaves plenty of room for more on all fronts, Turtledove manages to bring the military sequences to a conclusion even as he lays the seeds for further war.

While Into the Darkness doesn't stand completely on its own, the reader isn't left with any cliffhangers which point to the need for more books, merely a sensation that the story is not yet finished.

Copyright © 1999 by Steven H Silver

Steven H. Silver is one of the founders and judges for the Sidewise Award for Alternate History. He sits on concoms for Windycon, Chicon 2000, and Clavius in 2001, and is co-chair of Picnicon 1998. Steven will be serving as the 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. He lives at home with his wife and 3200 books. He is available for convention panels.

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