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A Transatlantic Tunnel, Hurrah! (2000)

A Transatlantic Tunnel, Hurrah! (2000)

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3.41 of 5 Votes: 4
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0575071346 (ISBN13: 9780575071346)

About book A Transatlantic Tunnel, Hurrah! (2000)

review of Harry Harrison's Tunnel Through The Deeps by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - February 14, 2014 Harrison's yet another SF writer whose work I've seen around for decades w/o ever having much interest & w/o ever reading any of it (except, perhaps, for a short story here'n'there if he wrote any). SO, it's time to read something by him! Was I impressed? Not particularly, it was ok, maybe the lack of writerly innovation is motivated by this being a sortof tip-o-the-hat to Verne & /or Wells. That wd fit the plot somewhat. Note that the main submarine in Harrison's story is called Nautilus the same name as Captain Nemo's sub in Jules Verne's novel Twenty Thousand Leagues Under The Sea. This is an alternate history novel in wch Britain won the war-for-independence w/ the colonies - resulting in no USA - as of the 1970s (when the novel seems to be roughly set) the Americas are still a colony: ""Because of the revolt and the ill feelings that followed after it in the American colonies, we remain a colony to this day. While others, Canada and Australia, for example, have attained to full independent dominion status within the empire."" - p 23 That last spoken by an American named Washington in conversation w/ a peer of the realm. Washington becomes the man who heads the construction of the train tunnel across the Atlantic Ocean. That, in itself, is a pretty interesting main plot. After all, the English Channel Tunnel was discussed for over 190 yrs before it was finished in 1994 & that's only 31.4 miles. SO, imagine a train tunnel ±3,000 miles long! While, in a sense, the technology for at least attempting such a feat may've existed for a while, the actual ability to do so is still way beyond us. Of course, there's also the issue of WHY? When we have planes & large boats, etc.. Harrison answers this question cleverly enuf w/ his alternate reality plot. Running thru the novel is all the technology that doesn't exist b/c America never got its independence & all those American inventors never got a chance to exist. & that was one of the most fun things about reading this for me. "It was a hansom cab, two-wheeled, high, black, and sleek, the driver perched above with the reins through his fingers, these same reins leading down to one of the new-fangled conversions that were slowly removing the presence of the horse from central London. Here there was no proud, high-stepping equine frame between the shafts, but instead a squat engine of some sort whose black, metal, bricklike form rested upon three wheels." p 31 Cars exist, but they haven't become common & they've evolved in different ways. There's been no Henry Ford. Gas lamps are still the main public lighting: "A fine rain was falling, darkening even more the black pavement of Kensington Gore so that each yellow gaslight above had its mirror-imaged fellow". (p 32) Apparently there's been no Edison, no Tesla, no Westinghouse. "from his belt there hung the required wire recorder that lectured him day and night on what he was seeing" (p 125) Anyone who knows about the technical problems of a stationary wire recorder will find imagining a portable one particularly hilarious - kindof like a Pinto Space Shuttle. The notion of alternate time-streams becomes relegated to being something promulgated by a minor psychic character who postulates a possible time-fork on July 16, 1212: ""Suffice to say, Gontran spoke before he died, and revealed the fact that he had planned to lead Christian troops that night by secret and unguarded paths that he knew of, being a shepherd, that would bring them behind Muslim lines. He died and this was not done. Now I ask you to consider what might have happened if he had succeeded in his plan."" (p 34) This possibility, of course, being the one that leads to the world as we (sortof) know it today. Harrison's pretty thorough in his imagining of what-might-be-if the USA hadn't existed: ""Iris, darling, you can't mean that! You're a girl of the twentieth century, not a Victorian shadow of a woman. You have the vote now, or at least will next year when you are of age; women have a freedom under Elizabeth they never knew before."" (p 37) Apparently, Women's Rights have lagged behind. "No tea this time, as on their last meeting, for Iris had reached her majority in the meanwhile and was one of the new brand of liberated women who drink in public places. She had a Tio Pepe sherry while he perforce had a double brandy." (p 115) On the other hand, the Britain of this story has sad traces of what's still going on just about everywhere today, a variation on the tropes of human trafficking: "In his release it all came out, the wretched man's history since he had first set foot in England twenty years previously, as well as what his fate had been since. An illegal emigre, helped by his friends to escape the grinding unemployment of Paris, friends who eventually turned out to be less than friends, none other than secret agents of the French crown. It was a simple device, commonly used, and it never failed. A request for aid that could not be refused—or he would be revealed to the English authorities and jailed, deported." (p 53) & conditions in America (& elsewhere) are different too, of course, as things seem stalled in the 18th or 19th centuries: "The Iroquois, forced by law to check tomahawks and scalping knives at the city limits or to leave them home if they were residents, found a ready substitute in the table knives from the grill. The Irish, equally restricted in the public display of shillelaghs and blackthorn sticks above a certain weight, found bottles and chair legs as a workable substitute and joined the fray. War whoops mixed with the names of saints and the Holy Family as they clashed." (p 55) "Since the original thirteen states attempted to form their own government and failed, this country has grown until now it numbers thirty-one states and the California Territory." (p 60) "Gamblers there were in the crowd, sleek men with dark clothes, neat mustaches and white hands—and ready derringers on their persons to confront any man so rash as to dispute the honesty of a deal or the fall of a pair of dice." (p 121) "the rendezvous up the Hudson River, below the ruined fortress of West Point, long associated with the heroic General Benedict Arnold" (p 149) For readers unfamiliar w/ the references: West Point, aka the United States Military Academy, is where officers are trained - candidates must be nominated, often by a member of Congress (this probably helps keep the ruling elites in power); Benedict Arnold was an American general during the Revolutionary War who defected to the British Army. Even J. Edgar Hoover makes an altered appearance: ""Would you care to comment upon the fact that Mr. J. E. Hoover of the Long Island region branch of the Colonial Bureau of Investigation, thinks that sabotage may be involved with the broken cable and that he has a man in custody?"" (p 75) In one sense, at least, technology has developed more quickly: "There was even more scribbling on pads and quick looks at the Wall Street Journal to see what the condition of steel and concrete stocks were; already some of the men were using their pocket telegraphs to get in touch with their brokers." (p 64) "pocket telegraphs"? Shades of cell-phones. & computers have their British history: ""They are making wholly electric Babbage engines now, calling them computers as if that made a difference; they are much smaller but still filled with bugs. Give me good solid metal any time" (p 93) Most of the technology is far behind what it wd've been if there'd been more 'Yankee Ingenuity' involved & that seems to be an important subtext of the novel. "the telephone chimed. He took it from the drawer, put the microphone on the table before him and the receiver to his ear, and threw the small switch which activated it." (p 104) One of the many strengths of Tunnel Through The Deeps is Harrison's imaginings of the technical difficulties of a trans-Atlantic train tunnel: "["]There are, of course, the abyssal plains that form the bottom, lying at an average depth of sixteen thousand feet below the ocean's surface, but other features must be taken into consideration. Down the center of the ocean runs the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, a great mountain chain that is in reality a double row of mountains with the gorge of the Rift Valley between them. These mountain ranges and the Rift Valley are crossed at right angles by immense canyons called fracture zones that resemble wrinkles in the Earth's hide. Other features also concern us, the Mid-Ocean Canyon, like an underwater riverbed on the ocean's floor, seamounts, and islands and trenches—that is, extraordinarily deep gulfs—such as this one, on the map here, that is over 5 miles in depth. And there are more factors to consider, underwater earthquakes and vulcanism which are concentrated in specific areas for the most part, the very high temperatures of the sea bottom near the Rift Valley as well as the fact that the sea bottom here is moving as the continents drift apart at the rate of about two inches a year.["]" (p 109) [An aside is that in my edition of the bk there's a misprint that puts the last line on p 109 at its top instead. If I were to read it as it's printed, the p wd begin: "the rate of about two inches a year. It appears, and the ge-the length of the tunnel with no physical connection".. & "sea bottom here is moving as the continents drift apart at ologists confirm the suspicion, that new matter rises from"..] All in all, I thought this was a well-developed & entertaining exploration of possibilities. Despite that, it still didn't do much for me. Maybe I'm just getting burnt out on SciFi after having read so much of it in the last yr+.

Harrison's novel is considered one of the founding works of the steampunk genre. It features all of the expected literary tropes including an alternate history, overly mechanized technology, and a strangely backward looking and forward leaning world civilization.The hero of this work is Augustus Washington, an engineer and descendant of the disgraced General George Washington who was hung as a traitor during the early failed attempt at American Independance. His skills put him in charge of the effort to build a monumental undersea railway tunnel from England to the American colonies.Combining elements such as the Pinkerton Detective Agency, the Brunel family of English engineers, cloak and dagger derring do, and Washington's desire to establish America as it's own country, Harrison writes a tightly plotted thriller.The copy of the book I obtained was from 1972. The one recurring downside to reading this book was the poor editing used in it's preperation. Normally I'm not one to get stuck on spelling mistakes and the like, but in this copy it was a recurring incident. A shame because it distracted from a very good story.

Do You like book A Transatlantic Tunnel, Hurrah! (2000)?

They build the tunnel. Why we need one, or what the social implications are, is never discussed. Read this if you are more interested in a book about fantastical tunnel engineering than one with a plot, characters or a point.

I read A Transatlantic Tunnel, Hurrah! in response to the death of Harry Harrison last week. HH wrote mainly two types of novels, funny ones like The Stainless Steel Rat/Jim di Griz-series, and gritty ones like the Deathworld-trilogy, but also some odd ones, like this book which I did read in the early 70s, but did not remember at all.It has been called "early steampunk", but I disagree wholeheartedly. It is simply a homage to Jules Verne and H.G. Wells, it's a "scientific romance" — no punk here whatsoever, no name dropping (Isambard Brunel does not count!). It's written in a rather charming style, the characters are stereotypes and the plot very predictable. To say that is "negative" criticism, is to say Verne & Wells were bad writers, which - of course! - they were not. And Harrison succeeds: I can easily imagine this in "Amazing Stories Quarterly" and Hugo Gernsback praising it.Has ATTH aged well? It depends: if you like Wells & Verne, you'll love it. If you don't and then measure it against Stephen Baxter or Gregory Benford, you won't.
—Tom Loock

I liked the story (3), and loved the imagery(4.5). The story captured my imagination with its exploration of alternate history and sneak peaks at the future directions science and engineering might take to tackle such a project. Overall: The concept is so tempting, people haven't been able to leave it alone!As seen above from a photo of the May–June 2008 installation by artist Paul St George who exhibited outdoor interactive video installations linking London and New York City as a fanciful telectroscope.According to the Telectroscope's back story, it used a transatlantic tunnel started by the artist's fictional great-grandfather, Alexander Stanhope St. George!Or better yet, how about an interactive tour of such a Transatlantic Tunnel on Discovery Channel's Extreme Engineering programe? Ernst Frankel and Frank Davidson discussed the science behind constructing a Submerged Oceanic tunnel and supersonic train in a piece in Popular Science, 2004 complete with a fascinating photo gallery. Their concept drawings have nothing of Harry Harrison's proto-steam-punk aesthetic about them, but if you yearn for such a thing you can step back a little closer in time with 1935 film based on the same concept as imagined by Jules Verne's son, Michel in a short story titled: Un Express de l'avenir aka An Express Of The Future published in The Strand in 1895.

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