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Gunpowder Empire

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Gunpowder Empire  
Author Harry Turtledove
Cover artist Kazuhiko Sano
Language English
Series Crosstime Traffic
Genre(s) Science fiction, Alternate History
Publisher Tor
Publication date 2003
Followed by Curious Notions
Gunpowder Empire, Tor, 2003, is the first novel in the Crosstime Traffic series. It follows the adventures of the Solters family, who spend every summer in the alternate universe called Agrippan Rome, more precisely in the city of Polisso, in the Dacia region, which is Romania in their reality. Agrippan Rome is a world where the Roman Empire never fell, thanks to Marcus Vipsanius Agrippa's survival against disease, which let him lead the Roman armies against barbarians, bring Germania into the Empire (unlike in the home timeline) and annexing Dacia a century early.

The Solters setup shop in Polisso, selling pocket watches ("hour-reckoners"), sharp razors, mirrors, and Swiss knives, all trinkets slightly above the technological know-how of the people. Things start going awry when Mrs. Solters falls ill. She and Mr. Solters leave for the home timeline, leaving their children Jeremy and Amanda behind. All would be well, except that soon after Jeremy and Amanda lose the communication link to their home timeline, and the neighboring kingdom of Lietuva (Lithuania and several neighboring nations in the Solters' home reality) has once again declared war against Rome, and the siege of Polisso begins.

Literary Notes Edit

The book's plot has much in common with Household Gods, written by Turtledove in collaboration with Judith Tarr - though that book concerns time travel back to the actual Roman Empire. Both books depict the daily life of a provincial Roman city from the point of view of modern American(s) marooned there, and both deal prominently such issues as facing a society where slavery is taken for granted, and surviving a foreign invasion of the Imperial territory.

At one point, Jeremy Solters plays a game on his PowerBook which involves aliens invading Earth during World War II. This is a reference to the Worldwar series. Another alternate in which the American Revolution never happened and North America is a contented part of the British Empire may be a reference to The Two Georges.

Jeremy Solters refers to an alternate in which Germany won World War I, foreshadowing the main setting of the following novel Curious Notions.

In "Alternate History: The How-to of What Might Have Been," Turtledove says that he wanted to write a story using the Roman-German conflict of Augustus' day as a break-point much earlier, but "It took me more than twenty years to come up with a story to follow on changing things there."[1]

Of all the Crosstime Traffic volumes, this is the only one where both POV characters are from the home timeline. Four volumes have one POV from the home timeline and one from the visited alternate, and The Gladiator has both POVs from the alternate.


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