Into the Darkness Paperback – Apr 5 1999
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Harry Turtledove is known for his alternate histories; from The Guns of the South to The Great War: American Front, he's practiced at imagining the ways society would have changed if various things had been different in history. Sometimes it's a key figure surviving (or dying); other times it's a strange new variable, like aliens landing during World War II. With Into the Darkness, Turtledove investigates a new wrinkle in this successful field: What if a world war were fought using magic?
Although Into the Darkness doesn't take place on Earth, the characters are humans, and they react in plausible ways. In fact, the uses of magic for political ends are eerily similar to the ways weapons have been used to wage cold wars in our own world. And as the magic grows more powerful, the destructive cost of war to the people of Derlavai grows as well. This is no enchanting fantasy world where kindly old wizards use their magic to kill dragons and save fair maidens. Turtledove has envisioned a place where the humans are decidedly political and greedy, and where magic is just a way of getting what you want. --Adam Fisher --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From Publishers Weekly
War is hell and its chaos is a precarious foundation for supporting the sprawl of this epic fantasy. Paralleling the approach of his bestselling alternative histories, Turtledove (Guns of the South, the Worldwar series, etc.) imagines a civilization reminiscent of medieval Europe, save that sorcery is an accessible power harnessed for military use. In the land of Derlavai, armies tap the energy of ley lines for firepower, train dragons to drop incendiary eggs and commandeer leviathans for submarine warfare. Troubles begin when the armed forces of Algarve invade the kingdom of Forthweg to reclaim territories partitioned from them a generation before. Neighboring Unkerlant follows suit, occupying the remainder of Forthweg and competing with Algarve for control of the balkanized duchies drawn into the fray. Turtledove builds a panoramic narrative from the experiences of a cast of hundreds intended to represent a cross-section of Derlavian society, including inexperienced student Ealstan, sensible foreign minister Hajjaj, decadent marchioness Krasta, noble officer Rather, and Vanai, a descendant of the fallen Kaunian culture whose pervasive presence throughout Derlavai lends events an aura of fatalism. Cogently rendered scenes in which these and other characters display the extremes of cowardice and heroism induced by life during wartime give the novel a Tolstoyan sweep, yet never gel into anything resembling a cohesive plot. Dizzying shifts of viewpoint capture the convulsive character of combat but make allegiances hard to keep straight. Even the spectacular war scenes, described with frontline immediacy, become repetitive and generic. Like the casualties that crowd its pages, this novel sometimes seems a victim of overly complicated designs. Author tour.
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Top Customer Reviews
The main argument against this book and series was weak predictable characters with no development. Another common complaint was about the sheer number of them (about 15 viewpoint characters) which was confusing and didn't allow any of them to arise as a major character. I think anyone using this argument is missing the point entirely. This book focus is on EVENTS not on people. Turtledove is telling his version of imagined history. Read the rise and the fall of the third Reich (Shirer) or Stalingrad (Beevor) for comparison of historical text. Turtledove uses his characters eyes to describe events, for that matter he could have used a hundred different characters. The story would have been as good as his story telling is excellent. If you want character development during wartime read one of the masters (War and peace, Doctor Zhivago), this book style and pace is entirely different. Another point raised was that the similarity with the 2nd world war made it too predictable and boring. That is like saying that "every novel based on historical events is boring due to predetermined ending". A book doesn't have to be entirely fictional to be good. Another common complaint dismissed the feasibility of the magical and the social system. Hey guys, this is after all a Fantasy genre. I bet none of you said anything when Gandalf used his tricks.
So why only three stars?Read more ›
It is certainly entertaining trying to discern which of Turtledove's countries are meant to parrallel the acutal countries involved. Turtledove does a decent job of making the events of WWII work within a magical setting. As always, his storytelling is up to par.
Turtledove's story does suffer from too many characters. Each country involved is represented by a host of characters that soon leaves the reader bewildered and flipping back to the beginning of the book to see who is who. The number of characters portrayed as soldiers also bogs down the book with mulitple points of view on the same event. Turtledove also never offers any kind of explination behind the magic involved - he offers a partial explanation at some points but never enough to truly understand how these magical weapons work and more importantly how their scientific laws operate with each other (I have a feeling this is going to be more important in later books). Further Turtledove doesn't bother to discuss how an entire mobile armies are supplied with the magic they need to operate. While it is certainly interesting to see the events of WWII from a fantasy perspective, I was left with a so-what feeling?Read more ›
Mr. Turtledove tells his story from no less than sixteen different viewpoint characters and dozens of secondary characters. With such a cast no one character stays center stage for any length of time and as a result there is little or no character development. There is very little to distinguish one character from another and one setting from another. The result is that every few page the POV changes and one has to stop reading and try to figure out just who the character is and where they are before one can continue reading. The characters and the landscape would have been easier to follow if M. Turtledove has used a real world map and historic characters plugged into a world where magic substitutes for technology. Instead we are left to figure out that Algarve is a stand in for Germany and Valmiera is there in place of France and so on.
"Into the Darkness" is the first novel of a projected six-book series but I cannot see how any sort of interest could be maintained for five more books like this one.
First, there is way too much magical stuff. The wizards are few and far between - there are simply not enough of them around to make all the "sticks" and "eggs" all the armies are expending in such profusion.
Second, if you really want to make a fantasy (or any other) equivalent of WW2, you must look at logistics, not just at battles. And there is no mention of how or where weapons are made, or where dragons or behemoths are bred and raised - all such facilities should be prime targets, but they are just swept under the rug.
Third, why is everyone so fired-up patriotic? Every country in the book is run either by an absolute monarch, or by a degenerate aristocracy - and commoners clearly have no love for either. So why do they fight so hard? In real world what we call patriotism appeared only when industrial revolution gave "common people" some measure of power. Before that, kings fought each other with mercenary soldiers, who switched allegiances easily.
Finally, all characters are wooden and predictable. All soldiers (and there are at least a dozen of them) have exactly same personality, and are completely interchangeable, which makes Turtledove's usual POV switching rather pointless....This book seems intended strictly for 13-year old males. A desert kingdom where everyone is naked is particularly ridiculous. There is a good reason people in deserts dress from head to toe! It could have been made a jungle just as easily, and the nudity would be at least plausible.
All in all, if I did not know better, I'd have thought someone wrote a bad parody of Turtledove's formula.
Most recent customer reviews
This book furthers Harry Turtledove's reputation as an historically knowledgeable and consistent writer. Read morePublished on May 16 2004 by James K. Donegan
As the first of a siries i have to try to stress the inportance of this book. for staters i can't say this book is for light readers. Read morePublished on Nov. 2 2003 by William Semciw
I am sorry so many people liked this book. I wanted to like it, but after reading about 200 pages of mindless ramblings, I just had to stop. Read morePublished on Aug. 24 2003
Harry Turtledove's "Into the Darkness" begins the series of a world at war, almost identical to World War Two, except this war is fought with magic, where dragons and unicorns... Read morePublished on April 27 2003 by Philip B. Yochim
This was an interesting and well-told story of WWII in a fantasy realm. Turtledove manages to make his main characters likable despite the vast number of them, and the limited time... Read morePublished on Sept. 28 2002
It looks like most of my review got deleted somehow, so I'll try again:
"Into the Darkness" starts with an awesome idea, and there are some points where it almost delivers on... Read more
"Into the Darkness" starts with an awesome idea, and there are some points where it almost delivers on its initial promise. Read morePublished on July 20 2002 by not4prophet
with so many characters and countries it is difficult to keep track of what is going on throughout the book. Read morePublished on July 1 2002 by swiss1939