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A World of Difference by Harry Turtledove
Published by Del Ray Books
Reviewed by Leigh Kimmel
A World of Difference by Harry Turtledove is an alternate history in which the point of divergence is the development of the solar system. In that timeline Mars is an Earth-sized planet known as Minerva because of the flashing brightness of its icefields. Life has developed there, and although the severity of the climate keeps the sapient natives at a low technological level they are by no means stupid.
As the story opens two small Terran ships, one from the US and one from the USSR (at the time this novel was written, the USSR had yet to collapse and it hit the shelves just as the USSR came apart), are landing near the site where the Mariner probe was attacked and destroyed by a Minervan native. As the Terrans deal with the natives there is plenty of opportunity to show up the foibles and follies of both cultures, as well as the ability of humans to rise above their pettiness and become truly great. Turtledove also recognizes the ethnic divisions within the XUSSR in the characterization of his Soviet crew.
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Review posted December 16, 1998