- Paperback: 624 pages
- Publisher: Earthlight; New edition edition (3 April 2000)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0671022822
- ISBN-13: 978-0671022822
- Package Dimensions: 17.2 x 11 x 4.6 cm
- Average Customer Review: 7 customer reviews
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 3,196,271 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
Into the Darkness (Darkness 1) Paperback – 3 Apr 2000
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Alternative history SF is Harry Turtledove's speciality--he rewrote the US Civil War with added AK-47s in The Guns of the South (1992), and dropped alien invaders into World War Two in his "Worldwar" tetralogy (1994-6). Into the Darkness opens a fantasy sequence which more distantly echoes the multi-factioned complexity of WWII, as nation after nation plunges or is sucked into an escalating war. Energy sticks and magical "eggs" replace rifles and bombs; there are armoured columns of behemoths, dragon air forces, sea leviathans planting limpet-mine eggs. Names, geography and details are all new, but one nation excels in magical Blitzkrieg tactics and also persecutes the equivalent of the Jews ... foreshadowing worse horrors to come, since in this world human sacrifice is a potent source of magic and death camps could be highly practical. There's a Dunkirk-like flotilla of small boats, but it's used for attack rather than retreat. Theoretical sorcerers are on the edge of some fundamental breakthrough: an occult Manhattan Project looks likely to follow. Avoiding the genre's Good versus Evil simplicities, Turtledove's fantasy wars relentlessly reflect our real world's intractability and mess. Into the Darkness reads well once it's gathered momentum, but the excitements are tinged with considerable grimness. Sequels will follow. --David Langford --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
About the Author
Harry Turtledove is the Hugo-winning author of many science fiction and fantasy novels. His alternate-history novels include the bestselling The Guns of the South, How Few Remain, the Worldwar series, and Ruled Britannia. He lives with his wife and daughters in Los Angeles. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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The book follows the usual Turtledove conventions of 20 chapters of roughly 30 pages each with each chapter sub-divided into a separate vignette. We follow the progress of the war via the individual stories of a variety of characters.
It's an OK book really and if you haven't read any of Turtledove's previous series you may enjoy it well enough.
Dragon riders replace aircraft, Behemoths replace tanks, East and West have been transposed, Eurasia has been moved to the Southern hemisphere so that Scandinavia becomes equatorial, and names and superficial national characteristics have all been changed. But this is real history, not alternative history. Again and again the terrible events of the book are based on real historical incidents.
Some of the changes to racial characteristics are impishly amusing, such as the fact that the people who correspond to the Finns live in an equatorial climate and look like Zulus, while the Saraha Desert becomes "the land of the Ice people," the Gyongyosian people who correspond to the Japanese are physically large, and the Kuusamans who correspond to Americans have epicanthic folds.
Other changes are rather more biting - the "Kaunians" who correspond to Jews are tall, blue-eyed, and blonde.
What Turtledove appears to be trying to do with this series is to study how different people responded to a time of great evil. Some people were sucked into taking part in that evil, some fought against it, others just tried to live through it. The changes to the names and characteristics of the participants seem to be intended to give the reader an opportunity to leave behind some of our emotional baggage about the holocaust so that we can try, not to justify the wrongs which people did in terrible times, but to understand how it could have happened.
All but two or three of the characters in the first few books books are fictional - Hitler is King Mezentio of Algarve, Stalin is King Swemmel of Unkerlant, and Marshal Rathar gradually morphs into Zhukov. This actually makes the story more exiting, as the characters are presented well enough that you care about them: we all know how World War II turned out but the readers has no such certainty about the fate of the fictional characters.
The six books of the series each corresponds very roughly indeed to about a year's real historical events. The first book, "Into the Darkness", mostly covers events corresponding to those between the start of the fighting when Hitler invaded Poland to the fall of France in 1940: the last few pages of the book are mostly filler taking the story up to set the scene for Operation Barbarossa, Hitler's attack on Russia in 1941, which is covered in the second book, "Darkness Descending."
The series is best read in the correct sequence. All the books of this series have the word "Darkness" in the title, but the publishers refer to it as the "Derlavi" series, this being the name given in the books for the great continent which corresponds to Eurasia. It is sometimes also described as the "World at War" sequence. The full set of six books in their correct order is:
"Into the Darkness"
"Through the Darkness"
"Rulers of the Darkness"
"Jaws of Darkness"
"Out of the Darkness".
Bottom line: the mood is as black as the titles indicate, but the series is a very exciting read.
2)Take the broad facts about WWII change nothing except the names of countries. Retain all the leaders' personalities and politician's roles they'll come in handy later!
3) Change weapons names. Now guns are sticks! Bombs are eggs! Though that changes nothing else about there function so you don't even have to think of new battles or tactics. This can actually make dragons boring.
Voila - Tolkien eat your heart out?
No not really, the writing is functional but any novelty gained from crystal (ball) radios etc. fades well before the hundreds of pages run out. Insulting to adults and there is so much more on offer for teens. When compared to the imagination let loose in Scott Westerfeld's Leviathan for example, this can only be one star.
One minor curiosity; I read the softback, the back cover of which includes 'With echoes of the First World War...'. Loads of echoes certainly, so many that you end up playing spot the Character/Country/Event, but the echoes are of the Second World War. Just goes to prove that blurb writers and checkers don't actually read the book.
One people are chosen as scapegoats - the Kaunians.
There are many stories to keep track of, so this is no bedside read at 1AM. The story is complex, yet simple. Keeping track of all of the characters can be confusing to begin with, but as the story moves along, it all gets easier.
The story has many similarities to the history of WWII.
What isn't so good is that all the equipment of WWII is also represented. So we have Behemoths (Tanks) mounting Sticks (Cannon) or Egg Throwers (High Explosive cannon) and Dragons (airplanes) doing the same. Each soldier has a magical "stick" that fires magical bursts of energy, in short they're armed with rifles. And it goes on - Kusuummo is working on unifying the magical laws of similarity and contagion, the Manhattan Project by another name. The net result is that it seems way too modern and not magical at all. The "feel" of the book suffers from this. It doesn't feel like a fantasy book at all.
I was disappointed in this. I'll read the second one to see if it gets better.
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