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The Disunited States of America: Crosstime Traffic Book 4    by Harry Turtledove order for
Disunited States of America
by Harry Turtledove
Order:  USA  Can
Tor, 2006 (2006)

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* *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

In the previous Crosstime Traffic adventure, In High Places, a teen cross-time trader found out first hand about the evils of slavery. This fourth in the series, The Disunited States of America, asks what if there were a parallel world in which the U.S. states remained separate (squabbling) entities?

Harry Turtledove postulates such a world (a high-tech alternate) and sends Justin Monroe there with his mother - to the country of Virginia - in 2092. In this North America, the Southern states are racist, dominated by whites - except for Mississippi, where the blacks are in power and whites discriminated against. The Monroes stay in Charleston with a local agent, Randolph Brooks (who runs a coin and stamp collecting company), posing as his sister and nephew. When Randolph drives to meet a customer in Elizabeth, he takes Justin along for the ride.

At the same time, Californian Beckie Royer accompanies her cantankerous Gran on a trip East. She's not very happy to be there, especially when she realizes Gran's brother-in-law is smuggling guns as he drives them from Ohio across the border to Virginia. They end up staying in Elizabeth (population 1,316) with Gran's cousin Ethel and her husband, Ted Snodgrass. When Randolph shows up with Justin, to meet with Ted, the two teens naturally gravitate together and a friendship develops, verging on romance.

Both Justin and Beckie are strangers in Virginia and we get to know this alternate world through their different perspectives on it. Then Virginia and Ohio declare war, and things quickly get very complicated. Travel is suspended after a genetically engineered disease begins to spread, soon after which the blacks rebel, armies are on the move, and bullets fly. Both Beckie and Justin find out the reality of war first hand, and Justin must make a tough decision when his friend desperately needs his help.

The Disunited States of America is another exciting adventure in a series that's both entertaining and thoughtful, as it looks at how our world might have evolved differently, based on pivotal historical events.

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