3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Intriguingly different, but slightly perfunctory,
This review is from: A Transatlantic Tunnel, Hurrah! (Paperback)
My main complaint is that "A Transatlantic Tunnel, Hurrah!" is far too short. Having gone to the trouble of constructing such a fascinating, and fairly consistent, parallel world, Harrison could have written twice or three times as much about it. Many novels benefit from being vigorously trimmed back, as the removal of excess verbiage helps the action to stand out more clearly. Here, the opposite is the case. Apart from the protagonist, Captain Augustine Washington, there is virtually no characterisation - and even he is little more than a heroic stereotype. And the civilisation and culture of a world in which the American colonies never achieved independence are merely sketched, with overwhelming focus on transport technology.
Then again, you can easily zip through the book in a day, and nobody can complain about being bogged down by inessentials. Harrison's artistry allows him to translate us to his alternate universe with a few deft strokes. It is unfair to make comparisons with later novels such as Gibson and Sterling's "The Difference Engine", which give a more three-dimensional impression of Victorian society. (Anyway, "A Transatlantic Tunnel, Hurrah!" is set in 1973, although speech patterns and customs are Victorian).
Due to the book's consistent focus on the transatlantic tunnel project, the action is rather intermittent. This will not be a problem for anyone who enjoys descriptions of clever technology, though, as possibilities are opened up that have not been explored even in our world. Some of the ideas may seem questionable - for instance, the artificial islands in the Atlantic, with their hotels, shopping precincts and beaches, might not stand up well to the occasional "perfect storm".
All in all, though, a most enjoyable romp and a big contrast to run-of-the-mill "space opera" science fiction. The introduction by Auberon Waugh and cameo appearances of Messrs Aldiss, Amis and Dick Tracy are a bonus.