Opening Atlantis by Harry Turtledove

Chupacabra slept right thru this photoshoot.
Chupacabra slept right thru this photoshoot.

Where I Got It: Own it

Narrator: Todd McLaren

Publisher: Tantor Audio (2007)

Length: 16 hours 4 minutes

Series: Book 1 Atlantis

Author’s Page

In this alternative history, Atlantis is a sizable land mass that sits in the Atlantic ocean between England and Terra Nova. Multiple generations of the Radcliffe family are followed in this book, starting in the 1400s during the War of the Roses. In Part 1, Edward Radcliffe and his family are the first Englishman to settle in Atlantis. Part 2 is set a few generations later. The family has split and William Radcliff wants nothing to do with his pirate cousin Red Rodney Radcliffe. Part 3 makes another jump in time and we follow Victor Radcliffe as his society comes to terms with slavery.

There was much to enjoy about this book. First, I really like how the author took this mythical land and made it a real place on the map, one to be discovered and settled in the 1400s. Since Atlantis has been isolated from other land masses for some time, there are some interesting critters. My inner biologist reveled in these details. Also, the flightless birds of various sizes made it easier for the new settlers to gain a foothold, the birds being easy to catch and cook. Yet there are some dangerous beasties as well, ones that can tear out a man’s vertebrae!

Since the book is divided into three parts, it was more like reading three novellas set in the same land but during different time periods. Since I wasn’t aware of that going into the book, I think I got the most attached to Edward and his two sons, Henry and Richard, from Part 1. They make the discoveries, set the sailing route to and from England, and also negotiate the first settler rights of the land. Also, this was a time of exploring the land and getting to know the wildlife, which I thoroughly enjoyed.

When we get to Part 2, Red Rodney’s daughter, Ethel, is the character that stole the show. She’s being raised by a roguish pirate and has aspirations of captaining her own pirate ship when she is grown. In fact, she is the only female character of note in the entire story. There are a few other ladies that get names; a few even get a few lines. While Ethel is a thoroughly enjoyable character, she doesn’t make up for the very obvious lack of integral female characters for the rest of the book.

Part 3 takes on a pretty serious subject: human slavery. Victor struggles with what he knows of slaves and former slaves he has befriended and what he knows about the economics of the day. Victor truly believes that Atlantis cannot continue to be a financially independent country without slavery to run the plantations that make up the backbone of economy. The author doesn’t turn a blind eye to the nastier side of slavery but he also doesn’t revel in the brutality of the subject.

Throughout the three parts, Atlantis is not solely British. The Spaniards and French also find their way to the large land mass and make settlements of their own. Eventually, there are clashes. Some of these rivalries are continuations of European wars; some of them are purely Atlantis squabbles. These interactions were mostly interesting and only sometimes got a little unwieldy, and hence, a little boring.

The Narration: Todd McLaren did a good job. He had distinct voices for all the male characters and the few female characters that had lines. His various accents were well done. His voice for Ethel was great!

What I Liked: The cover art; a fun ‘what-if’ scenario; interesting animals of Atlantis; multi-generational; conflicts between settlements; doesn’t shy away from addressing human slavery.

What I Disliked: Very few female characters and only 1 of note; sometimes the conflicts between settlements got a bit unwieldy and slowed the pace of the story.

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