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Opening Atlantis by Harry Turtledove
Review by Bill Lawhorn
Roc Hardcover  ISBN/ITEM#: 9780451461742
Date: 04 December 2007 List Price $24.95 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /

This isn't your standard mythological Atlantis. If you are expecting a technologically advanced culture that will play an important role in European international affairs, you will be disappointed. Clear your mind of preconceived notions of Atlantis and prepare yourself for a different view of the exploration of the new world.

A simple trip to shore and a chance encounter at a pub will change the course of the world forever. The promise of a third of a load of fish opens a whole new world for Radcliffe. The chance meeting between Englishman Edward Radcliffe and Breton Francois Kersauzon in 1452 heralds the opening of the new world. Half way across what we consider to be the Atlantic sits a new continent. As a land that is in the direction of fabled Atlantis, the name naturally sticks.

This isn't a land like anything ever seen before. The creatures do not fear humans. For until very recently no human had been there. There is no connection or possible connection between the Old World and the New and without proper ships no contact was possible. Without contact with other parts of the world, different species have evolved. Honkers are large and tasty and will let you walk right up to them. There are large eagles that hunt honkers, and many snakes. There aren't any rats or mice, dogs, horses, cows, or sheep. The land is fertile and the climate pleasant.

After a successful fishing trip, Edward makes the decision to move his family to these new shores. As news spreads of Edward's plan, more people want to be involved. The peasants want to be far from the lords and their rules and wars. The Radcliffes establish a colony and others soon follow. There are three epochs in this volume that follow the Radcliffes and their lives in Atlantis. The sons of Edward follow different paths to home and happiness. Henry is happier at sea and Richard enjoys the freedom of the wilderness. These characteristics will impact future generations as the family walks the fine line between freedom and loyalty.

The colonization of this new land starts almost half a century before Columbus discovered America in our world. That is an important point. This is not our world. The continents are similar, but a new one has been broken off of the Americas and set in the middle of the Atlantic. This means that the climate of Europe, Ireland, and England are different as the Gulf Stream must follow a new path. It also creates new possibilities for trade and development. England is closer to Atlantis than America, giving the crown more opportunities to play a role in this land's development and conquest.

I enjoyed this book. I wasn't locked into my prior Atlantean dreams and was able to simply enjoy the tale. The exploration and in some cases defiling of this new land is interesting. This novel reminded me greatly of a Louis L'Amour's Fair Blows the Wind which introduces the Chantry family to the Americas. I look forward to the further adventures of the Radcliff(e)s.

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