|The Valley-Westside War|
|Preceded by||The Gladiator|
The Mendoza family has just received a research grant from UCLA to study what exactly went wrong in this alternate. Los Angeles native Liz Mendoza travels with her parents to the medievalized remains of Los Angeles as a member of Westside in the area of Westside, surrounding the ruined university. She attracts the unrequited affection of Dan, an archer in King Zev's army from The Valley after the area of Westwood is attacked and occupied by the Valley men.
Liz has to simultaneously deflect Dan's interest while continuing to research the causes of the war amid the crumbling ruins of UCLA's libraries. Though Liz initially considers him dull and dumb, Dan, however, is not as unschooled and ignorant as Liz thinks, and, although he is attracted to her, he has his misgivings about the Mendozas. His suspicions are confirmed, and he blows their cover and causes them to return to their own time alternate, but not before he seriously asks why someone from a different world, who has the knowledge and expertise to help his Earth recover from its postwar havoc, does nothing.
Near the end of the book, Liz discusses several alternates with Dan. These include a timeline where Russia peacefully won world domination without nuclear weapons (The Gladiator), a world where Imperial Germany invaded and occupies the United States (Curious Notions), and several worlds where Nazi Germany became the dominant superpower on the planet (three of them possibly being In the Presence of Mine Enemies, "The Last Article" and "The Phantom Tolbukhin"); such a Nazi-victorious world is also mentioned in the beginning of Gunpowder Empire, where footage of atrocities from there is shown to high school pupils in the home timeline. Liz also mentions other timelines, including ones where Nazi Germany and China started the last nuclear war, where the nuclear war was complete enough to fully wipe out all life, where governments impose draconian birth control measures, and where humans have expanded across the solar system to harness their resources.
Both The Valley-Westside War and "Secret Names" are set in an America that is in the future following a nuclear war, where local names have become corrupted and the line between science and magic has become blurred, and where the pre-war era is referred to as the "Old Time". Additionally, characters debated the relative value of older solid silver coins and more recent nickel-copper sandwich coins in both stories with some preferring one and others the other. It is therefore possible that they are set in the same timeline.
There is a considerable similarity between the setting of the present book with that of the more recent "Topanga and the Chatsworth Lancers". Both are based on the premise of a major catastrophe destroying modern civilization, with the Los Angeles area becoming eventually divided into mini-states created by groups of survivors. In both works, Turtledove describes with considerable detail the political, economic and military set-up of these states and the causes and course of conflict between them. The author's note on Turtledove before the beginning of "Topanga" does mention he has lived in the west end of the San Fernando Valley for the last thirty years so Turtledove's knowledge of the area is not surprising.