Not sure where else to post this, but I read A DIFFERENT FLESH for the first time just the other day and wanted to share my opinion on it-
- In brief: This is good Turtledove, with the author feeling much more engaged with the story than is sometimes the case (and the stories told being very engaging in their own right). It's also fair to say that this book has finally introduced me to PoV characters (Particularly Jeremiah) who seriously threaten to topple Master Will (Shakespeare) and Lope de Vega of RULED BRITANNIA from their shared perch on the Top Spot (Though credit to IN HIGH PLACES' Annette Klein & Jacques, who also recently 'shook the podium' but suffered from a tragic lack of Pulp Goodness to really sell their candidacy).
- In addition:
- I'm morally certain that the War of Independence that created the Federated Commonwealths of America (apparently fought in the late 1730s and early 1740s, assuming their Articles of Independence - dated AD 1738 - were ratified a year into the war, per the American War of Independence of our own timeline) was fought against a Jacobite Monarchy (Rather than their Hanoverian cousins), since the narrative speaks of an Absolutist 'Divine Right' monarchy in the French style.
Given that Benjamin Franklin (born 1706) would have been in his youthful prime at the time, I'm betting his local counterpart would have been even more of an Enlightenment rock star than the one with whom we are most familiar (Given his son William Franklin - born 1730 - would be far too young to favour King or Congress, he might even have a far happier family history to boot).
- I also got the rather amusing image of George Washington (born AD 1732) finally getting to pursue that Naval career he'd dreamed of as a lad (albeit with the US Navy, rather than the RN) because being brought up in the Federated States of America gave him much further grounds for rebelling against his mother's wishes than being raised a country squire in His Majesty's Province of Virginia.
Doubtless Mister Midshipman Washington (or his local counterpart) won't sink without a trace, though he's still likely to bump his head on the ceiling a time or three.
- My only major quibble with this particular book is the question of where the name 'sim' for Homo Erectus came from; I've a notion that it might derive from 'simian' but have a little difficulty imagining it being a name applied by Jacobean settlers to their local 'subhumans' (Though I'm admittedly not sure what the most logical period alternative would be).
I'll bet you cash money that if Leif Erikson ever saw a sim, he and his crew would have dubbed them TROLLS on the spot.
- For some reason I really love the little detail that police uniforms in the Commonwealths are green by default; It's one of those small, telling details that help sell a setting as quite different from ours (I'm also fond of 'calc' as name for a personal computer, though for my money 'horseless' as default name for a car doesn't work so well).
- There would undoubtedly be a great deal of entertainment value (and a good deal of difficulty) involved when drawing up a map of the Americas for this setting; the general absence of the First Nations means that modern man would need to come up with names for EVERYTHING (Since there would be no current residents to hand them names like Massachusetts, Mississippi and Manitoba).
You can tell that Professor Turtledove was keenly aware of this, since he very carefully steers clear of place names outside those areas not given European names. (-;
- One interesting thought: While the sims/Homo erectus beat the First Nations of the Americas across the Beringia land bridge (and the story of how that happened might be a tale worth telling in its own right), Hawaii - settled by sailors, rather than pedestrians - would almost certainly have modern humans in residence; I'm not certain, but the Inuit & Aleutian peoples also reached North America over sea, so there might very well have been enclaves of modern humans resident on the Pacific coast and in the Far North even before Jamestown was set up on the Eastern seaboard.
I wonder how they got on with sims ...
- My only serious reservation about the novel is that TRAPPING RUN moves them a little too far away from 'Missing Link' territory and into 'Caveman' terrain; For the rest of the novel to work, sims have to be profoundly NOT US and Mr Quick's time with the 'Martin band' humanises them to the point where they can crossbreed with Homo sapiens; It makes sense to complicate the picture of sims that we've previously received, to help us better understand what makes them tick and what they look like when not under the thumb of 'modern man', but I do think that making sim/human hybrids a very real possibility makes it very difficult to regard them as not human in the way that the rest of the novel (Particularly the very next chapter) requires them to be.
For my money, it might have helped had the 'History text' at the beginning of the chapter (or the one at the beginning of the next chapter) not left open the possibility - indeed the likelihood - that Mr Quick, while not actively delusional, was perhaps not the most clearheaded witness (Alone in the middle of aliens, he would naturally have looked so desperately for points of similarity that he may have missed some of the differences).
Alright, I should admit that this line of thought is partly prompted by my acute discomfort with 'hot apeman action'. It's a little like being obliged to image a hospital patient making love to a chimpanzee in a nurse's uniform and I don't like it!