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Beyond The Gap by Harry Turtledove

01/04/2009. Contributed by Paul Hanley

Buy Beyond The Gap in the USA - or Buy Beyond The Gap in the UK

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pub: TOR/Forge. 332 page hardback. Price: $24.95 (US), $31.00 (CAN). ISBN: 978-0-765-31710-0.

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This is another book in alternative history from that prolific writer Harry Turtledove. Many of his previous alternative histories have been set in a variant of the American Civil War or of World War II but this is set in a world of ice and snow, swords and woolly mammoths.

The chief protagonist is a nobleman, Count Hamnet Thyssen, from an old empire which extends to the edge of the great glacier at the end of the world. The icecap and the glacier have been in retreat for years and word now comes to the Emperor that a gap has opened in the glacier to the far north possibly allowing access to fabled lands beyond. The news comes from Trasamund, a clan chief of the Bizigots, who is from the far north.

The Count and an assortment of companions are despatched to explore this passage and see if it leads to new lands, new people and possibly the fabled temple of the gods. They are a rather disparate crew with the Count's former wife, Gudrid - the archetypal trollop, wheedling her way onto the expedition.

She torments him and ferments trouble as they head deeper into the bleak northern lands but these are as nothing when they meet a new enemy beyond the freshly opened gap. The Rulers are a tribe of mammoth-riding warriors and as this story finishes they are pushing through the gap from their own side in a formidable invasion.

This is a well told quest to find a new land with the otherwise bleak, icy wastes and the life led there brought to life by vivid description and the rich characterisation of the people involved.

This is clearly a book with sequences to come and I look forward to reading them. Thoroughly recommended.

Paul Hanley

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