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    Review of CURIOUS NOTIONS by Harry Turtledove


    TOR, October 2004

    In a world where Russia reacted just a little more slowly to the outbreak of war, Germany was able to pump its entire army into France, avoiding the Battle of the Marne and defeating France, England, and Russia in detail to end World War I. Years later, it discovered the atom bomb and defeated and occupied the United States. Now the Crosstime Traffic corporation watches the Germans carefully, and does everything it can to be sure the Germans don't learn the secret of the ability to pass across alternate planes of earth. While it watches, Crosstime trades with this plane, dumping archaic VCRs and other electronic equipment that is completely outdated in the home plane, but fully up-to-date in a world where science has moved a little more slowly (in the absense of cold-war competition).

    Teen Paul Gomes and his father take up operation of the San Francisco branch of Crosstime Traffic, buying produce from California's central valley and selling electronics. Although Crosstime hasn't realized it, both the Germans and the Chinese Tongs have noticed that the shop, Curious Notions, sells equipment that is ahead of what even the Germans produce for themselves. They may not guess the crosstime secret, but they certainly suspect something. Paul's father's clumsy attempt to divert German attention to the Chinese gets Lucy Woo's father arrested--and Lucy goes to Paul to complain.

    Author Harry Turtledove (see more reviews of novels by Harry Turtledove) is at his best realizing alternate history worlds and a world where the Germans prevailed in WWI is certainly not a stretch. A less vibrant, less developed, and less electronically capable San Francisco is a believable outcome of such a war--and the war that followed and allowed Germany to occupy the United States. The economic notion of selling electronic devices retail and buying truckloads of produce is harder to swallow. Why, for example, wouldn't Crosstime have introduced a single product design (say a VCR) and manufactured it locally, selling through distribution (the way VCRs are sold in America today?). Selling through a single retail shop and buying single truckloads of produce seems incredibly inefficient--and exactly the type of thing that would call for attention from curious police.

    CURIOUS NOTIONS (and indeed the entire CROSSTIME TRAFFIC series) is targeted largely to the young adult market with its teenage protagonists and the innocent romance between them. Turtledove's strong ability to create and describe alternate worlds, however, will help the series appeal to adult readers as well. A bit more work on the economics and Turtledove will have a definite winner in this series. Even without that, it's an enjoyable story.

    Two Stars

    Reviewed 4/01/05

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