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Into The Darkness [Hardcover]

Harry Turtledove
3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (28 customer reviews)

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Book Description

April 16 1999
Hailed for bestsellers like The Guns of the South, the World War series, How Few Remain, and The Great War: American Front, Harry Turtledove has become one of the most popular authors in SF today. Whether writing "alternate history" tales, or fantastic adventures tinged with real history like his Videssos novels, Turtledove writes with the confident and authoritative voice of the best SF writers: strong storytelling, a fantastic imagination, and a deep understanding of authentic human history.

Now Harry Turtledove turns his hand to a story of epic dimensions: the story of a World War in a world where magic works. When the Duke of Bari suddenly dies, the neighboring nation of Algarve, long seething over its defeat a generation ago in the Six Years' War, sees its chance to bring his small country back, as they see it, into the Algarvian fold . . . an action which the other countries surrounding Algarve cannot, by treaty, tolerate. As nation after nation declares war, a chain of treaties are invoked, ultimately bringing almost all the Powers into a war of unprecedented destructiveness.

For modern magic is deadlier than in eras past. Trained flocks of dragons rain explosive fire down on defenseless cities. Massed infantry race from place to place along a sophisticated network of ley-lines. Rival powers harness sea leviathans to help sabotage one another's ships. The lights are going out all across Derlavai, and will not come back on in this lifetime.

Against this tapestry Harry Turtledove tells the story of an enormous cast of characters: soldiers and generals, washerwomen and scholars, peasants and diplomats. For all the world, highborn and low, is being plunged by world war...into the darkness.

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From Amazon

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

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.

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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars WWII in a world of magic. June 23 2003
Format:Mass Market Paperback
As a general rule I Read the Amazon reviews starting with the lowest rating before making a purchase. Somehow I glean a lot more out of people advising me against reading a book. Into the Darkness had plenty 1 and 2 stars reviews but it had intrigued me so much I've decided to give it a shot anyway. I'm glad I did and I'll use this stage to answer some of the bad reviewers main points.
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?
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4.0 out of 5 stars Fantasy and World War II April 24 2003
Format:Mass Market Paperback
Alternative history author Harry Turtledove turns his considerable powers of story-telling toward a fantasy world where magic allows people to have more "modern" type weapons (ie. - guns and bombs)and more complex national relations. In a story that roughly paralells the events of World War II, Turtledove's magical world is plunged into war after the death of a duke allows one of the major powers to take back land that was taken from them after the last war.
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?
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2.0 out of 5 stars Mediocre history and poor fantasy Nov. 20 2002
Format:Mass Market Paperback
"Into the Darkness" presents an intriguing concept. After a generation of peace, the world of Derlavai is on the brink of yet another global war. In this world Magic takes the place of technology and magical beasts functions as weapons of war. Airplanes are replaced by dragons, submarines by leviathans and tanks by behemoths. Mr. Turtledove is basically present World War II in a fantasy context. Unfortunately the result is far less than the promise of the concept.
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.
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1.0 out of 5 stars Absolutely AWFUL! Nov. 8 2002
Format:Mass Market Paperback
Sorry Mr. Turtldove, but taking history of WW2 and replacing airplanes with dragons and guns with wands DOES NOT make a fantasy novel! What it makes is a mess of contradictions.
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.
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Most recent customer reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Turtledove at his consistent best
This book furthers Harry Turtledove's reputation as an historically knowledgeable and consistent writer. Read more
Published on May 16 2004 by James K. Donegan
5.0 out of 5 stars New best book
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 more
Published on Nov. 2 2003 by William Semciw
1.0 out of 5 stars Wheel of Time meets WWII
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 more
Published on Aug. 24 2003
4.0 out of 5 stars The start of war
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 more
Published on April 27 2003 by Philip B. Yochim
5.0 out of 5 stars Very Intriguing...
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 more
Published on Sept. 28 2002 by "dragonhonor87"
3.0 out of 5 stars Needs a rewrite or two
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
Published on Aug. 3 2002 by not4prophet
3.0 out of 5 stars Needs a rewrite or two
"Into the Darkness" starts with an awesome idea, and there are some points where it almost delivers on its initial promise. Read more
Published on July 20 2002 by not4prophet
2.0 out of 5 stars interesting but confusing
with so many characters and countries it is difficult to keep track of what is going on throughout the book. Read more
Published on July 1 2002 by swiss1939
2.0 out of 5 stars interesting but confusing
with so many characters and countries it is difficult to keep track of what is going on throughout the book. Read more
Published on July 1 2002 by swiss1939
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