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Friday, January 21, 2011

"Down in the Bottomlands" by Harry Turtledove

Availability + Resources:
  • Radnal vez Krobir takes visitors on a tour of "Trench Park"--the widening between present day two continents. A mountain range rises up connecting the continents and dries up the ocean so that a vast desert stretches between them. Moreover, the Neanderthals did not disappear but exist with an uneasy peace between themselves and the other human species. Any small act could upset the peace.
  • That's exactly what happens. An enemy officer, a citizen of Morgaffo, is murdered and a starbomb (nuclear?) is planted--either of which could spark a war.
  • After reading the story the first time, point out the foreshadowing in the following passage:
"The pretty Highhead girls looked particularly upset. The placid donkeys worried them more than the wild beasts of the Trench.

"'Let's put off the evil moment as long as we can,' Radnal said."
  • What is one of the criminals' names? If one name has thematic purpose, what might the other refer to?
  • Biology: What are some adaptations for life in the Bottomlands desert?
  • Earth: Find how long ago that the Bottomlands appeared (also reread early passage explaining). Check out this Classzone animation or the one on wikipedia. Hypothesis: How might the Bottomlands have kept water from flowing into its basin?
  • Prehistory: When did Homo sapiens appear? When did Neanderthals disappear? Considering the answer you came up with for Earth, how likely is this scenario? Hypothesize how something like this could have happened.
  • How is animal behavior responsible for the story's climax?
  • Prehistory extrapolated 20 million years
  • Earth science: in particular Earth movement.
  • Biology: animal behavior, desert biomes
  • What if #1: Neanderthals continued to live?
  • What if #2: Laurasia did not separate into two land masses separated by an ocean?
  • Sexual content (for whom this may concern): While not explicit, the details here are not covert.
  • Less patient readers may have difficulty getting through beginning story set-up, but it should please them if they stick with it.
  • Prehistory extrapolated 20 million years
  • Earth science: in particular Earth movement.

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