Beyond the Gap: A Novel of the Opening of the World MP3 CD – Audiobook, MP3 Audio, Unabridged
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From Publishers Weekly
In this promising first of a new saga, alternate-history maven Turtledove (Ruled Britannia) depicts a Bronze Age society in transition. A growing gap in the glacier that has formed the Raumsdalian Empire's northern border for millennia allows Count Hamnet Thyssen and Trasamund the jarl, of the nomadic Northern Bizogot, to become the empire's Lewis and Clark. They and their entourage, which inconveniently includes Hamnet's unfaithful ex-wife, Gudrid, depart the empire's capital city, Nidaris, to explore what lies beyond the glacier and search for the fabled Golden Shrine. On the way, a formidable and attractive (if unbathed) Bizogot shaman, Liv, joins the expedition—and Hamnet under the animal hides. If the Raumsdalians and Bizogots don't always get along, their culture clash is nothing compared to the threat they face on the other side of the glacier: the Rulers, a tribe of imperious, mammoth-riding warriors. A vivid setting and strong characterization bode well for future installments. (Feb.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
The Raumsdalian imperial capital Nidaros was originally a mammoth-hunter's camp at the edge of a great glacier. The glacier retreated, and city, then empire, grew. The glacier remains, out of sight beyond the northern horizon but not, with the houses of Nidaros built to withstand frigid northern blasts, out of mind. A chief of the mammoth-herding Bizogots brings to Nidaros word of a narrow gap that has opened in a supposedly endless wall of ice, revealing new lands and new beasts. Are there new people? The emperor sends Count Hamnet Thyssen, an old soldier recently, painfully divorced, to explore. Rather than the fabled Golden Shrine beyond the ice, he finds enough blood, toil, and ignorance (also a few sympathetic women) to convince him that empire and Bizogots need to develop new defenses fast. Neither welcomes his counsel, and he'll have his hands full in subsequent books. Readers familiar with late imperial Rome will recognize the period and peoples Turtledove adapts. Not top-drawer Turtledove, but a solid actioner with an ironically attractive protagonist. Frieda Murray
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
First, the writing is "talky" and often lazy with adverbs describing said, such as "... said, blandly."
Second, the novel purports to be about a "lost" late bronze or early Iron Age civilization from the end of the last ice age or perhaps from a time between the ice ages, but the dialog often has a distinctly modern tone, to the point of being anachronistic. Many physical items in the story also seemed out of their proper time.
Third, nothing much happens. They go through a gap in the glacier, they briefly encounter some bad guys and don't find what they were looking for; they come back through the glacier and report what they found; and they go north to the Glacier again. The book ends.
Through it all, we follow the emoting of a male character about his ex-wife and a new lover. This would be fitting in a Harlequin romance novel, except the character is an otherwise alpha male, not female, protagonist. Most of the internal dialog from that character is repetitive musings about his evil ex-wife.
I also agree with the other reviewer in his complaints about working magic. The book is a fantasy--nothing wrong with that--not an alternate history.
I repeatedly asked myself as I was reading, did the author bother to read this even once after he wrote the first draft, or did he just send it off to his publisher?
The turning point for this alternate history appears to be about 12,000 years ago - when, in our world, the last ice age started to end, and the glaciers receded to above the Arctic Circle. I can't be entirely sure how far forward after that turning point we are; civilization seems to have reached a late-Middle-Ages stage, with bows and arrows as weapons, but no crossbows or firearms, and horses being ridden but no mention of stirrups. (Those who have read Jared Diamond's "Guns, Germs and Steel" know that the invention of the stirrup may have been one of the biggest turning points in the history of warfare.) There's writing, but not everybody is literate; there are walled cities, but also nomadic tribes living at a level barely above Stone Age. The overall term for the clans of nomads is "Bizogot" and I don't know whether Turtledove intended us to assume that because this sounds a little like "Visigoth," the proto-Indo-European language that developed into the Western languages we know in our world developed in some similar manner in this fictional world. He may just have meant it to give us rough associations of "barbarians prepared to invade the empire."
As it turns out, however, the barbarians and the Empire must make common cause, due to a new danger from the other side of the glacier, because a gap has opened between east and west. Here is where the book starts to hit weaker moments: there are some logical inconsistancies posited in the lack of knowledge our protagonists have about the newly discovered others (whereas they know about people to the south of the Empire, who presumably have been able to travel further around the world unimpeded by glaciers), and the new people, who style themselves "the Rulers," are portrayed in a strictly cardboard bad-guy fashion. Also, as one previous reviewer mentioned, at this point we get competing wizards performing magic, with no attempt at scientific explanation, which for many people would take the book into the realm of fantasy and per force remove it from alternate history. However, if one is willing to allow one's suspension of disbelief to cover the wizards - there may, after all, be things we do not yet know - then this is not a sticking point. On the other hand, my own perspective on suspension of disbelief gave me a few bad moments at what seemed to me the improbable resolution of the romance between Hamnet and Liv.
The book ends in an open-ended fashion, which is why I suspect there may be a sequel planned, and I would worry about that a little, because if Turtledove were to follow his usual track record, the sequel would be almost entirely about battle plans and the development of new weapons, with very little attention given to any character development, or to any plot outside of war and more war. However, that hasn't happened yet; perhaps I'm worried for nothing. And then, there are many people who seem to LIKE those interminable war series, so you may well have something to look forward to!
Oh yes, one more thing: our protagonist and one of his companions are awful punsters. Read these puns at your own risk!
The premise is interesting, an alternate history of Ice Age people who find a gap has melted in the glacier that has dominated their culture for generations imemorable. A diverse group is sent through to explore what, and who, may lie beyond the gap.
Unfortunatley the story is slow to develop and the characters are boring.
The final straw, for me, was the fact that this "alternate history" features a wizard. Sorry, I will accept a lot when it comes to AH's but when magic enters the plot it's no longer AH but fantasy. If I want fantasy I will pick up a title in that genre.
It's too bad that Turtledove wasted a second of his time or ounce of his talents working on this book. His other titles, especially the true AH are superb and I was led to believe this title would follow in the same vein. It does not even come close.
The journey to the north--into the land of the glacier takes the Raumsdalians a long way from home to a world where wood is virtually unknown, where crops cannot be planted, and where the nomadic life is considered normal. Fortunately for the Empire, the Bizogots have always been divided--and can be bribed to attack one another when they might otherwise threaten the Empire.
What they discover beyond the gap, though, changes everything. Because there are people living there--people who style themselves the 'rulers' and who look at the opening in the gap not as an opportunity to seek knowledge, but as a chance to conquer the rich lands of the south. And the Raumsdalian Emperor has absolutely no interest in hearing about a risk to his comfort.
Author Harry Turtledove spins a strong tale of magic, character growth, and cold. Turtledove is best known for his alternate history stories and BEYOND THE GAP, while not an alternate history, carries a lot of Turtledove's historical knowledge with the Raumsdalians standing in for the Romans, the Bizogots for the Germans, and the Rulers for the Huns.
Turtledove's fantasy stands out from much of what is being written now because it focusses on people and on the conflict between civilizations rather than the angst of particular dark elves or whatever. Not that Turtledove doesn't have his tortured characters--certainly protagonist Hamnet is tortured and equally clearly Gundrid carries demons of her own that she cannot shake. But we get the idea that the deeds of these characters carries more weight than simply their happiness or their acquisition of wealth. Civilizations stand in the balance as well as personal romance--and that's good stuff.
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