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The Disunited States of America

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The Disunited States of America  
Author Harry Turtledove
Language English
Series Crosstime Traffic
Genre(s) Science fiction, Alternate History
Publisher Tor
Publication date 2006
Preceded by In High Places
Followed by The Gladiator
The Disunited States of America, Tor, 2006, is the fourth novel in Harry Turtledove's Crosstime Traffic series. It posits an alternate in which the United States did not reach the compromise of the bicameral legislative branch at the Constitutional Convention of 1787, and so continued to use the Articles of Confederation. After a few decades, the United States simply ceased to exist, and the various states became countries unto themselves. Many have a history of war with their neighbors. Beckie Royer, a Californian, travels to Virginia with her grandmother, Myrtle Bentley. So do Crosstime Traffic employees Justin Monroe and his mother. By chance, they meet. Shortly after, Virginia goes to war with its neighbor, Ohio. Biological weapons are used, stranding everyone in a quarantine situation.

Literary CommentEdit

A fragmented United States presents a wealth of possibilities, and Harry Turtledove scratches at the surface of them. Turtledove gives quick hints about some of the history of the continent, which countries resemble our own U.S. states geographically, how some familiar states are part of different entities altogether, and the like. For this reason, The Disunited States of America is arguably the most tantalizing and entertaining novel of the Crosstime Traffic series.

A similar idea is at the base of Michael Flynn's novella "The Forest of Time" ([1]), also based on the alternate history scenario of the United States being stillborn and the various states going their separate ways (and often going to war with each other). Flynn's scenario in many ways resembles Turtledove's, but has the radical difference of assuming that the divided Americans would prove unable to subdue the tribes of Native Americans to their west, supported by Britain, and that European settlement in North America would never extend far beyond the boundaries of the original 13 colonies.

A premise closer to TDSoA, and released about the same time, is to be found in Stoney Compton's Russian Amerika, where North America is balkanized in much the same way, and technology is about 40 years behind OTL. However, the point of divergence came in the mid 19th century, much later than in Turtledove or Flynn. The idea seems to be that, following a Confederate victory in the Civil War, California and Deseret seceded from the Union as separate nations, the Plains Natives joined forces to create a solid sovereign state of their own, and Texas took itself out of the Confederacy, resulting in six ex-USA countries. However, they are paid little attention because the focus is on the titular province of Alaska, which in 1987 is struggling to throw off the yoke of the House of Romanov. A commonality between Compton's scenario and Turtledove's is that California is the most progressive and freedom-loving of the relevant nations.

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