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The Case of the Toxic Spell Dump

3.87  ·  Rating Details  ·  577 Ratings  ·  40 Reviews
David Fisher, a humble but dedicated bureaucrat of the Environmental Perfection Agency finds that an evil ancient deity (the sort that likes human sacrifices) is about to take over L.A. -- unless he can stop it
Paperback, 367 pages
Published December 1st 2002 by Baen Books (first published 1993)
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(showing 1-30 of 1,058)
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I've always thought of much of the urban fantasy field as taking off with Ann Rice and Laurel Hamilton books, so when I saw this book was published in 1993, I had to give it a shot. It is of the alternate history kind of urban fantasy, with magic as the basis for technological development. David Fisher works for the Environmental Perfection Agency as an inspector. His manager in the District of St. Columbia wants him to unofficially follow up on a tip that a waste dump north of Angels City might ...more
Aug 03, 2010 Sydney rated it it was amazing
This book is deceptively good. I originally picked it up based solely on the really cheesy illustration on the front. But the world is absolutely fascinating: a reality where EVERY SINGLE religion is correct and therefore is reflected in the world. It's an amazing interwoven tale that delves into theology as an everyday occurrence.

It's interesting to see how people relate in a world where one religion is not superior over another, and each religion impacts its members on a day to day basis. If
Jun 23, 2015 Koeur rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition

Publisher: Open Road

Publishing Date: June 2015

ISBN: 9781504009430

Genre: Fantasy

Rating: 3.1/5

Publisher Description: David Fisher pushes paper for the EPA in a world that’s a lot like ours . . . only different. In this California—and throughout the alternate United States—all gods are real, science doesn’t exist, and magic rules everything, running imp-driven computers and creating anxiety-inducing bumper-to-bumper flying-carpet rush hours.

Review: Since thi
Mark Gardner
Jun 30, 2015 Mark Gardner rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2015
You may have read my review of Bombs Away, here on Goodreads. 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 ferventl
Jun 24, 2015 Brad rated it liked it
This was my first Harry Turtledove, and I've been wanting to read his works for a while, but mostly for the alternate histories. I eventually read this one, which wasn't one of those, because I got it from Netgalley as a reprint from the original title that came out in 1993.

It's an early Urban Fantasy. I loved the concept behind this world, where all religions are not only valid, but they have a certifiable presence and weight. Our main character is Jewish, and while I started getting excited at
Alysa H.
Jun 04, 2015 Alysa H. rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: netgalley
A delightful genre-bender of a book! I'd call it, perhaps, an Alternate Universe fantasy procedural. How I'd never heard of Harry Turtledove before now is a mystery to me -- he's quite prolific and known for his Alternate History novels -- but if he's always this good at blending reality and fantasy, and at considering the full implications of every tiny detail, the man must be a genius. His plays on language certainly made me smile all the way through.

I was immediately endeared to narrator Davi
Jun 10, 2015 Kallierose rated it liked it
I have read many of Harry Turtledove's alternate histories but this one was quite different. Instead of some pivotal moment in history turning out different, in this case the world was different because magic was real and in most cases had taken the place of technology.

Although the idea intrigued me initially, I ended up being very distracted by the differences between the two worlds - the different names for places, the use of "sand crown" instead of "sand dollar", and other such turns of phras
May 01, 2014 Steven rated it liked it
I've read better. The book's most serious flaw is the uneven application of same-but-different. We have Angels City, which is exactly the same as Los Angeles, except all religions are true and magic is real. You get flying carpet traffic jams instead of car traffic jams, wool fibers in the air instead of smog, toxic magic waste dumps instead of toxic industrial waste pretends to be imaginative but it's an exercise in purely surface differences. This is driven home by a few diatribes b ...more
Oct 10, 2015 Shibosan rated it liked it
Читанная лет пятнадцать назад, но все еще отличная новелла - в первую очередь благодаря своему сеттингу, немного напоминающему техномагию вселенной Shadowrun (только без киберпанка и технологического прогресса). Детективная история в таком сеттинге идет влет.
I can't imagine the tons of research that must have gone into this book. All I know is that a ton of research went into the jokes, worldbuilding, various gods, the bureaucratic system, etc. There is a lot of information here. It also felt to me like the writer had a blast writing this book.

That is partly what made the book so enjoyable. There were several puns, and a lot of playfulness with translating our titles and names to a world where magic is an everyday thing. For example, the main chara
Jun 08, 2015 Crittermom rated it it was amazing
It is no surprise that Harry Turtledove is renowned for his science fiction novels. He has an unsurpassed ability to create richly detailed alternate world's and histories. The Case of the Toxic Spell Dump is a superb example.

The world of The Case of the Toxic Spell Dump is one where magic, deities, and human worship work symbiotically to create a civilization at once familiar, but drastically different from our own. Instead of cars, there are magic carpets powered by sylphs. Phones and other ga
Jan 13, 2009 Kathleen rated it really liked it
This book was fun to read. If I remember correctly, it was based on the idea that, just as with mundane energy use there are by-products and waste products, with magic use there are by-products and waste as well. And the story is about a particularly toxic dump of such waste products and the efforts of the main character to clean things up.

Sounds pretty dreary, I guess, but I remember it as quite enjoyable. A nice twist on the idea of magic requiring a price.
Maria Beltrami
How would the world be if, instead of an industrial revolution, there was a magical revolution, and with this extravagant energy the world was working? Of course all the laws of alchemy would be valid, and all the gods - and I emphasize all - would exist on an equal footing. This is the world that Turtledove tells us in this fun novel, in which a low rank EPA clerk, Environmental Purity Agency, which in addition to the acronym also features, albeit in a magical context, the Environmental Protect ...more
Mar 12, 2016 Nick rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I didn't think I was going to enjoy this book so much, the idea was cool but the idea of swapping all modern conveniences for magical ones just seemed a little trite and silly to me - probably because it is both of those things.

Turtledove, however, is a master of alternate history and he brings all of his game to bear on this fantasy novel. Despite myself, despite a few eye-rolls especially in the beginning, I couldn't help but get sucked in. Silly? Perhaps, but it is also incredibly fun and cre
Jul 15, 2015 Mike rated it liked it
Shelves: comedy
A mix of good and bad in this one. First, the good: it features a heroic civil servant, something I see all too seldom in fiction (there are plenty in real life, even if not usually to this degree). The story is well plotted, and the writing competent. The uncorrected proof I read (courtesy of Netgalley) contained a good many typos, but that's all they were - slips of the typing fingers. Hopefully an alert proofreader will catch the majority of them before publication.

This book is in the mould o
Katelyn (Lost as Alice, Mad as the Hatter)
I hate telephones.
For one thing, they have a habit of waking you up at the most inconvenient times. It was still dark outside when the one on my nightstand went off like a bomb. I groaned and tried to turn off the alarm clock. Since it wasn't ringing, it laughed at me. The horrible racket from the phone kept right on.

I admit to loving the opening lines of the novel. I often feel as if my alarm is laughing as I grope blindly for the offending contraption, which also, more often than not, doubles
P. Aaron Potter
Oct 02, 2012 P. Aaron Potter rated it did not like it
Shelves: fantasy
That was a disappointment. Turtledove, one of the SFF's most reliable story tellers, has not stood the test of time terribly well in the first place. However, if the voice is a little dated, the ideas are at least well developed and engaging. Usually.

Not this time though. Here Turtledove anticipates the Urban Paranormal movement with a story of an EPA inspector who is tasked with cleaning up the mess left behind by a society grown fat on spells and potions. It should be a successful premise, a p
Aug 08, 2013 Johnny rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fantasy, mystery
Harry Turtledove is, for me, one of the foremost practitioners of the alternate history genre. Since 1993, I’ve been secretly amused at the idea that Turtledove turned his hand to fantasy in addition to alternate history. I’ve passed by The Case of the Toxic Spell Dump on more than one occasion and, sadly for Mr. Turtledove’s royalty status, only picked it up on sale at a used bookstore. Even then, it was because I was picking up paperbacks that I could leave on trains, planes, and in hotels. Bu ...more
Apr 26, 2011 Trayana rated it it was ok
Още един роман, който се основава на идеята за общество, което е постигнало развитието си благодарение на магията, а не на технологията. Въпреки приликата си с „Операция „Хаос”, написаната през 1993 г. творба на Търтълдав не може да бъде определена като плагиатство.

Преди всичко, защото историята вече се развива в деветдесетте години на двайсети век в алтернативни САЩ. Проблемите там са съвсем същите като при нас – изострена външнополитическа ситуация, държавна бюрократщина и проблеми с индустриа
Jun 24, 2015 Brooke rated it liked it
I received this from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Probably 3 1/2 stars.

I've read some of Turtledove's alternate histories before, but the alternate history with the addition of the magical/fantasy elements really took it to a new place. I really enjoyed this one - it was great fun. Don't take it too seriously and you're in for a fun adventure.
Michael Burnam-fink
Oct 30, 2014 Michael Burnam-fink rated it really liked it
Shelves: fantasy, 2014
Nobody would ever accuse Harry Turtledove of originality. For a man who specializes in alternate history, his stories usually take a pretty blunt point of departure: time travelling South Africans give the Confederacy AK-47s, aliens with Gulf War military tech attack in the middle of WW2, thing like that.

The Case of the Toxic Spell Dump is set in a world where all religions are true, where magic works, and where magic is used to duplicate technology in the early 90s-mostly through endless puns
Josef Hernandez
A good modern fantasy novel

For a full review, please go to or and follow me on Twitter @josenher
Aug 18, 2014 Marj rated it really liked it
I really enjoyed this book. The first part is a bit slow-going, but it's fun to read about the differences between our world and the magic-centered world of the book. For example, phones exist, but voices are mimicked by the imps who live inside them. Magic carpets still get caught in traffic and investigating the potential hazards of introducing leprechauns into the California ecosystem requires research and reams of paperwork.

Things escalate as David Fisher, EPA (Environmental Perfection Agen
Al Philipson
Jun 11, 2016 Al Philipson rated it really liked it
The story started out kinda slow and I was sure there wasn't enough plot to fill out a full novel.

I was wrong. Once it got going, it got more interesting and the end was satisfyingly tense. I took away a star for the slow start.
Good alternate history, most things turn out the same, except magic and religion do everything that science does in our world. David Fisher is a EPA agent - environment perfection agency - covertly tasked with investigating a toxic spell dump. The investigation takes david to various parts of st. Ferdinand valley (Silicon Valley?) part of Angels City, to various magical suppliers who dump stuff at the toxic spell dump.

A good read, though the 'investigation' often seems to take a back seat to fle
Jul 02, 2015 Heather rated it really liked it
Shelves: speculative
Fun and effectively paced, this is chock full of wordplay.
Glinda Harrison
Aug 24, 2015 Glinda Harrison rated it it was amazing
This was delightful!
Michelle Fobbs
A good quick re-read! I still love all the twists on ordinary life that are crammed into this book.
Chris Rayle
Jan 29, 2013 Chris Rayle rated it really liked it
Like most of Turtledove, describing the story quickly ends up sounding cheesy. Well, it's modern times, but magic and religion are real. This is the story of an EPA guy trying to clean up a toxic mess. Sounds like a yawner, right? Nope. A well thought out world and decently paced story make this a fairly quick read. Only down side is the reader might need experience with the world of bureaucrats and pencil pushers to appreciate some of the story.
Oct 12, 2008 John rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Nerds
Shelves: science-fantasy
My all time favorite in the genre of "Magic as Science (Fiction)." Way out of the norm for Turtledove. This is a book filled with religious and linguistic jokes that only a the rare few nerd will apreciate fully. Bone up on your Latin, Spanish, Hebrew, and world history before diving in. And just remember: nothing is ever what it seems. Except when it is.

I can't recommend it highly enough.
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Dr Harry Norman Turtledove is an American novelist, who has produced a sizeable number of works in several genres including alternate history, historical fiction, fantasy and science fiction.

Harry Turtledove attended UCLA, where he received a Ph.D. in Byzantine history in 1977.

Turtledove has been dubbed "The Master of Alternate History". Within this genre he is known both for creating original sce
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