Nuclear bombs shattered the US in 1967, leaving pockets of survivors and halting technology development – on this parallel timeline. Sent there by Crosstime Traffic, Liz and her parents pose as traders as they try to discover why this Los Angeles is still a patchwork of neighborhood kingdoms at war with one another 100 years later.
In the nearly abandoned UCLA library lit by oil lanterns, Liz scans crumbling magazines and newspapers with her hidden data device, hunting for the war’s trigger point. She can’t visit the library too often, as women here are expected to run the household and stay quiet – women’s liberation never even got started before someone fired the first deadly missiles. Good thing she’ll be at the real UCLA in the home timeline in just a year, instead of fetching water from cisterns during the ongoing drought.
When the Westside City Council decides to charge a toll for wagons coming through Sepulveda Pass on the old highway, King Zev of the Valley declares war. So it’ll be arrows and knives in hand-to-hand combat, as usual – except someone has found an Old Time machine gun and made it work. As killing from a distance becomes possible for the first time in decades, the stakes are much higher for Dan and the other soldiers.
A chance meeting between Liz and Dan may put both their missions in jeopardy, as Dan invents reasons to visit the Mendoza hacienda in enemy territory so he can talk to her again. It’s hard to transmit data reports to the home timeline when Liz doesn’t know when Dan might show up. He is nice to talk to and look at, of course.
As long as the Mendozas act like regular traders and the locals don’t suspect there’s a time station hidden in their hacienda’s basement, everything will be fine… right?
Turtledove brings readers into another alternate strand of history with this exciting episode of the Crosstime Traffic series, asking “what if?” a single event could change everything we know.
Recommended by: Katy Manck, Librarian-at-Large (retired academic/corporate/school librarian), Gilmer, Texas, USA