Roc, 424 pp.
In 1946, John Rolfe returns home to Oakland from the war. One malfunctioning short wave radio later and he has a doorway to another America, an America that has never been discovered by Europeans. Rolfe calls in his war buddies and proceeds to settle what he calls New Virginia (yes, he’s descended from those Rolfes). Cut to the year 2009 where our hero—Tom Christiansen, a big blonde farmboy and game warden—has tracked a warehouse full of poached pelts and some unusual condors back to John Rolfe and his family. This, of course, leads to Christiansen and his partner being abducted to New Virginia where they become embroiled in a coup by radical New Virginians attempting to overthrow the Rolfe family. There are no real surprises in the story but it’s well told and the descriptions of an untainted California can’t help but make the reader lust for a west coast that hasn’t existed for 200 years. And the weird mix of fascist police state and Ozzie and Harriet wonderland that Rolfe has created on his blank slate America leaves one wondering just what they would do in a similar situation. In the end, Stirling proves that he’s still as capable of putting out damn fine alternate universe stories as ever.