The House of Daniel, by Harry Turtledove

The-House-Of-Daniel

A picaresque tale of minor league baseball—in an alternate Great Depression America full of wild magic. Since the Big Bubble popped in 1929, life in the United States hasn’t been the same. Hotshot wizards will tell you nothing’s really changed, but then again, hotshot wizards aren’t looking for honest work in Enid, Oklahoma. No paying jobs at the mill, because zombies will work for nothing. The diner on Main Street is seeing hard times as well, because a lot fewer folks can afford to fly carpets in from miles away. Jack Spivey’s just another down-and-out trying to stay alive, doing a little of this and a little of that. Sometimes that means making a few bucks playing ball with the Enid Eagles, against teams from as many as two counties away. And sometimes it means roughing up rival thugs for Big Stu, the guy who calls the shots in Enid. But one day Jack knocks on the door of the person he’s supposed to “deal with”—and realizes that he’s not going to do any such thing to the young lady who answers. This means he needs to get out of the reach of Big Stu, who didn’t get to where he is by letting defiance go unpunished. Then the House of Daniel comes to town—a brash band of barnstormers who’ll take on any team, and whose antics never fail to entertain. Against the odds Jack secures a berth with them. Now they’re off to tour an America that’s as shot through with magic as it is dead broke. Jack will never be the same—nor will baseball.

I’m an instant requester of anything Turtledove when I see it on NetGalley. Usually, I see Turtledove books several months in advance of their release, but The House of Daniel was about six weeks out, so I read it right away, even though I just finished up Joe Steele the prior week. Hey, what can I say, I’m a Turtledove fan.

I feel that The House of Daniel is the ‘spiritual’ prequel to The Case of The Toxic Spell Dump. There weren’t as many puns as there were in TCOTSD, but The House of Daniel is still a feel-good story. Many of the ideas Turtledove had twenty-odd years ago when he wrote TCOTTSD, are in The House of Daniel. I’d re-read TCOTTSD last year, so its contents were at the forefront of my mind as I read The House of Daniel. I wondered where the story was going, and the payoff in the last chapters is worth the wait.

Baseball. Of all the major sports, I probably like baseball the best, but holy hell; this book has a lot of baseball. There are some interesting plot twists that break up the baseball, baseball, BASEBALL, and more than one of them brought a smile to my face.

The first person recollection method of storytelling leads to an almost “aww, shucks” feel to the narrative, and Turtledove pulls it off in an interesting and genuine manner. Because the muddy middle did seem to lag, and the baseball, baseball, BASEBALL, I’m awarding The House of Daniel four stars. A must-read for Turtledove fans, and probably likewise for sports fans.

Harry-Turtledove

Dr Harry Norman Turtledove is an American novelist, who has produced a sizeable number of works in several genres including alternate history, historical fiction, fantasy and science fiction. Turtledove has been dubbed “The Master of Alternate History”. Within this genre he is known both for creating original scenarios: such as survival of the Byzantine Empire; an alien invasion in the middle of the World War II; and for giving a fresh and original treatment to themes previously dealt with by other authors, such as the victory of the South in the American Civil War; and of Nazi Germany in the Second World War.

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About Mark Gardner

Mark Gardner lives in northern Arizona with his wife, three children and a pair of spoiled dogs. Mark holds a degree in Computer Systems and Applications and is currently attending Northern Arizona University. View all posts by Mark Gardner

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