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Book Note: Harry Turtledove, The Case of the Toxic Spell Dump

I read this book about 20-Dec-2002. This is the first time I've read this book. The book is copyright 1993. This note was last modified Monday, 01-Mar-2004 11:06:42 PST.

This note contains spoilers for the book.


A different direction for Turtledove -- not historical or alternate-history, and not serious. So far I'm liking it better. It harks back very much to Poul Anderson's Operation Chaos in a lot of ways (it pre-dates Operation Luna).

Mostly "magic" includes at least some forms of religious ritual. When that's the case, one must ask how people deal with a world where religion is known to be true (or at least there's a lot more evidence pointing that direction). It often comes up rather different from the way people behave in this world. In this one we have a nice plot sub-thread about "apsychic" babies -- born without a soul. It's a terrible tragedy, because the family can't look forward to meeting the baby in the afterlife. A high percentage of these children are "important" -- lots of good, and some extreme bad as well. It's an interesting view.

The book seems to be set roughly in the present, but rates of progress have varied. In particular, the freeway system is well established (though only flying carpets travel over it), but telephone and radio/television are brand new. The phone is only 10 years old.

I still don't understand why the carpets are so rigidly restricted to flying over the freeways. Other than to provide the recurring theme of traffic jams.

The phone system bothers me. It's only 10 years old, and it's based on cloned imps. I don't see any reason why wiring has to be part of it; and in fact the same cloning technology has made possible their television ("ethernet").

Still, this kind of story is essentially silly anyway. Both Turtledove and Anderson (who essentially originated it) were playing humorously with the background while telling a serious foreground story. I think that's an excellent way to approach this sub-genre.

I think this one actually matches Anderson's for interest and fun.

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David Dyer-Bennet