You may have read my review of Bombs Away. In it, I complained about what I coined as the “Turtledove Formulaic Doctrine.” I went on to say that some of the best works of Turtledove were the ones that weren’t part of a series. The Case of the Toxic Spell Dump (TCTSD) was recommended by an internet colleague. I’d wanted to read it in the **checks watch** twenty-two years since TCTSD was first published, but time, life, and finances had prevented me from reading it.
I’ve fervently enjoyed Turtledove’s stand-alone works for three decades. When Turtledove is doing one of his series, there’s a certain expectation that the reader is familiar with the previous works in the series. He doesn’t make you read it cold, but the back-story is sometimes lacking. This isn’t the case with TCTSD. I can appreciate that Turtledove wrote this story based on a humorous comment at a panel during a convention in Tuscon.
I won’t call TCTSD punny, per se, but there is quite a bit of blatant, and tongue-in-cheek humor with more than one groan-worthy pun. I’ve often enjoyed Turtledove’s non-alternate history stories including the Krispos series, Between the Rivers, the Darkness series, and my all-time favorite: Household Gods, co-written with Judith Tarr. I’m happy to include TCTSD among these favorites.
The best way to describe TCTSD is by saying it’s a mash up of Harry Potter, and the TV series Supernatural, with a sprinkling of American Gods, by Neil Gaimen. Of course, Turtledove beat J.K Rowling to the punch by four years and Eric Kripke by more than a decade.
The Case of the Toxic Spell Dump is a great read, and each chapter ends with you promising yourself “one more chapter.” The only reason I’d give TCTSD four stars instead of five, is that it wouldn’t be universally accepted, and there were enough proofreading issues to require another pass-through.