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ALTERNATING WORLDS by Gary Wolf

ALTERNATING WORLDS

By Gary Wolf

Pub Date: Dec. 23rd, 2004
ISBN: 978-0-595-34002-6

An interplanetary antiques dealer struggles to save his planet’s culture from an invasion by evil multiculturalists.

The entire population of Gladius engages in a planetwide ritual called the Alternance Cycle, during which life in other cultures and times is recreated to an excruciating level of detail, even if it results in the mutilation or death of the participant. Each idea, movement and philosophy throughout history gets its turn and is given equal respect, considered to be equally true and valid. They’ve been carrying out this massive ritual in isolation for some time, but when a specific silver tea pot necessary to the cycle is stolen, they have no choice but to ask an outsider to recover it, namely Graham Rohde, a renowned art and antiques dealer from the planet Cyrus. After witnessing the brutality of the Cycle and meeting a disgruntled escaped Gladian named Elkington, Rohde escapes to Cyrus. Eventually, the Gladians, intent on expanding the Cycle to other planets, send cultural emissaries to Cyrus, bearing fake evidence that the “superior” culture of Cyrus arose from “inferior” Gladian culture. Cyrus’s cultural elite embrace the Gladian’s false message, even going so far as to start smaller versions of the Cycle. They and the Gladians also viciously target their enemies, including Rohde, who must decide whether saving his planet’s high culture from invasion is a cause worth dying for. This book, the second in a trilogy, is Wolf’s angry response to the idea of multiculturalism. Unfortunately, by making the multiculturalists so over-the-top evil, he undermines his message, as readers simply won’t recognize today’s multiculturalism in the murdering and mutilating Gladians. There are other odd aspects, most notably the fact that, apart from effortless interplanetary travel, technology in the 24th century appears to have regressed to that of the 1980s, as characters still travel in cars and helicopters and use landline telephones. However, the prose is crisp and clean, and those who share the author’s perspectives will find much to agree with here.

A well-written–if over the top–attack on multiculturalism.