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The Valley-Westside War: A Novel of Crosstime Traffic    by Harry Turtledove order for
Valley-Westside War
by Harry Turtledove
Order:  USA  Can
Tor, 2009 (2008)
Hardcover, Paperback

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* *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

The Valley-Westside War is the sixth entry in Harry Turtledove's entertaining Crosstime Traffic series, which looks at how our world (and the United States in particular) might have evolved differently, based on pivotal historical events. It's also a coming of age story for its two teen leads.

The Crosstime Traffic series is based on the premise that a successful and technologically advanced timeline has discovered how to travel between alternate worlds, and sends its agents crosstime (primarily for trade), while keeping secret that they are from another version of history. The timeline that Harry Turtledove reveals to us in The Valley-Westside War is one that has been devastated by a 1960s nuclear world war, and he takes us to a region of small, warring states surrounding Los Angeles.

In Westside, we meet trader Jeff Mendoza (really a historian), his wife, and their spirited daughter Liz (Jeff and Liz have a great, bantering relationship). They are on a grant to research the remains of UCLA, and to determine who started the war in this particular timeline. Unfortunately, while they are there, Westside goes to war with the Valley - and loses. The invaders include young Valley soldier Dan, who is attracted to Liz, but puzzled by her interest in the UCLA library and by some things she says. He wonders if she's trying to find a new weapon for the Westsiders.

Liz at first scorns Dan, because of her superior education and his ignorance of much that she takes for granted. But he is actually pretty intelligent, which causes problems for Liz and her family, and ultimately results in Dan's learning about crosstime travel. What makes this story fun is the hippie dialect that Turtledove gives his locals who say things like groovy, bummer, and Right on! The Valley-Westside War is another entertaining episode in an excellent and thought-provoking series.

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