Here's the first of my two reviews in this month's Historical Novels Review.
UNITED STATES OF ATLANTIS
Harry Turtledove, ROC, 2008, $23.95/C$28.50, pb, 438 pp, 978-0-451-46236-7
Atlantis has been settled by the English and the French for over 300 years. Now, at the end of the 18th century, and following a bloody war for dominance of the island in which the French were vanquished, the English Atlanteans are beginning to rankle under the heavy hand of George III. When tensions over taxation bubble over and the garrisoned redcoats on the island are attacked, England decides to put the upstart colony in its place. Victor Radcliff, descendant of the man who discovered Atlantis and hero of the war against France, is again pressed into service and the United States of Atlantis are born.
The story is an alternate history, imagining what would have happened if Atlantis was discovered and colonized first, rather than North America (“Terranova” in the world of the book). It is the latest in a series, though it is not necessary to have read the previous books.
While the concept is interesting, I found the writing choppy and the book hard to get into. There was little character development (in fact, many of the Atlanteans were simply stand-ins for Washington, Franklin, Jefferson, and Howe and Cornwallis are included as they were). I found I did not care for the protagonist, Victor or his struggles.
While the world building is convincing, and the concept is interesting, the book overall is dry. I would have expected that the book would have taken the idea of colonies and revolution in a new direction – it is Atlantis, after all – but it is simply a retelling of the American revolution in a new geographical setting. I was hoping for more invention and creativity and, sadly, did not find it in this book.