The Valley-Westside War (Crosstime Traffic)
by Harry Turtledove
Review by Bill Lawhorn
Tor Books Hardcover ISBN/ITEM#: 9780765314871
Date: 08 July 2008 List Price $24.95 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /
The Crosstime Traffic Corporation visits and explores many alternate worlds. Places where the Nazis and Soviets win, as well as worlds so different and backwards that it is hard to believe. In most cases families cross into these worlds, learn to fit in, and trade. Children gain experience that will help them get into good colleges -- an advantage as they try to gain employment with Crosstime Traffic. In this entrant to the series, something is different. People are sent to explore why the bombs flew in the sixties in this alternate world.
Liz is the teenage daughter of a UCLA professor that has a grant to study a world that suffered a devastating nuclear war. Liz makes regular trips to the remains of the UCLA University Research Library to explore the stacks to find the breakpoint that led to war in this world's timeline. Her parents run a little trading outfit. Everything goes along fine until the local authorities decide to charge a toll to use roads out of the Valley. This leads to war. A war that sees the Westside forces pushed out of the area where they live. Soldiers from the valley come, including a young man named Dan.
Dan is an intelligent but uninformed youth. He meets Liz as he is looting the captured town. He is immediately captivated by her. He continues to visit as he hopes to win her affections. Liz tries to keep at a distance, but things often don't go as planned. The war continues and soon Liz and her family are at risk. They work to continue their research and not let people know how different they are by local standards.
The change in activity in this book was a nice switch from the older formulas. The pure research aspect was a good choice. It gives readers a deeper understanding of how different worlds could be, and what may lead to these changes. Liz and Dan are interesting points of view. Dan's perspective shows the hardship of this world as well as hope for the future. Liz's perspective shows the difficulty of maintaining a façade and how to judge people for who they are and not from where they come.
The only thing that a reader needs to know about this series is that there is a corporation called Crosstime Traffic that is able to send people to alternate worlds. Reading the other books is not necessary. Of course if they read and enjoy this book they should read the others as well.
Enjoyable read for both young and old. This is a pretty standard post-apocalyptic world. The nuclear war leads to a major worldwide collapse and a loss of technology and organization that although not stone age is definitely 17th or 18th century. Readers will be able to open themselves to a new world and think about how choices can lead to really major differences in their lives.
The ending was a left a little too open. The open ending leads to my recommendation that the author return to this world to explore the further adventures of Dan as he continues to advance in the Valley Musketeers.