The Gladiator by Harry Turtledove

gladiator For both good and bad reasons, I find that I am reading a lot less fiction than I used to. The good reason is that working at the library I am constantly exposed to so many wonderful non-fiction books, which I would never have heard of or thought to look for. The bad reason is because non-fiction is generally so much quicker and easier to read and review. Fiction is still my first love and I always enjoy reading novels, particularly by authors I’ve not read in the past. The Gladiator is my first experience with the sub-genre of science fiction known as "alternative history". What would the world be like if, say, the USSR rather than the USA had won the Cold War? In The Gladiator, Harry Turtledove uses a concept similar to the alternative time lines that Robert A Heinlein first presented in his much earlier novel, The Cat Who Walked Through Walls.   Set in Milan, Italy in a world in with the Russians won the Cold War and instituted a distincly Soviet style of government and life throughout the world The Gladiator centers on a high school student named Gianfranco who enjoys playing a railroad building game at a shop called The Gladiator. One afternoon after school, Gianfranco goes to the shop to play his usual round of games only to find that it is mysteriously closed. He soon learns that the shop has been raided by the Security Police, which are an Italian version of the KGB. Not long afterwards he meets up with Eduardo, the shop’s only employee, who shares with him the shocking news that he (Eduardo) is actually from a different world (I found myself wishing that Turtledove had followed Heinlein’s convention of referring to these alternate versions of the world as "timelines", which seemed considerably less confusing to me). Shocked and unsure what to do, he brings Eduardo home and introduces him to his father, who agrees to shelter the stray young man, who is hiding from the Security Police. It is a very novel and interesting story and Turtledove writes reasonably well. The book held my interest and I read it all in one day. While I don’t feel that this book is up to the level of quality of Heinlein’s earlier works, it certainly compares favorably to other current science fiction authors, such as David Gerrold.   The Gladiator. Recommended. Buy now only $5.50

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