Great alternative history books?
Join LibraryThing to post.
This topic is currently marked as "dormant"—the last message is more than 90 days old. You can revive it by posting a reply.
I also have a soft spot for Christopher Priest's The Separation (which won the BSFA and the Arthur C. Clarke Award), Keith Roberts's Pavane and Kingsley Amis's The Alteration
Fatherland I found boring. Years of Rice and Salt was a wonderfully imagined world but I find Mr. Robinson's writing style is not as exciting as I would like it to be. The Separation was a good read, and thought provoking, but it did rather confuse me. The Alteration was quite amusing. Harry Turtledove's books are very hit and miss - some of them are top-rate pageturners, others the writing is so bad you wonder how anyone could have the gall to publish it.
It's very interesting.
Modern-day West Virginian town transported smack dab in the middle of the Thirty Year War in Germany. The West Virginians try to establish their own nation there.
I also enjoyed Turtledove's Ruled Britannia, which says, "What if Elizabeth's Royal Navy HADN'T beaten the Spanish Armada?" and the implications following that. Shakespeare is the "hero" of that book.
Best of luck in finding a great read!
The Rivers of War by Eric Flint is wonderful! I'm looking froward to reading the next book, 1824: The Arkansas War.
I'm a fan of Ruled Britannia though less so of the other Turtledove books, because the dialogue and characterizations are so wildly variable in quality between books. I find that very puzzling.
I enjoy the way Turtledove recounts his tales, telling history from the perspective of a variety of protagonists, scattered across the continent. In How Few Remain, the main characters are pretty much people who have achieved fame in our own history. In the rest of the books, all but one of the main characters are Turtledove originals.
The anthology contains a number of good stories, but probably the most bizarre was "The God-Clown Is Near" by Jay Lake. Very, very bizarre tale of a technologist whose skills creating automata are used by two gangsters to take their plan for world domination to the next level. Their comeuppance is gruesomely approriate, but also funny. It's a difficult thing to make a morality tale both gruesome and amusing! I had to read more by this man, so I asked for Mainspring, his novel of a universe in which the watchmaker-God is literally true, on my amazon.com wishlist. It arrived yesterday, and as of now I've read 100pp of pure pleasure!
I'm sure I can think of other alternate histories to recommend, but can any of y'all?
One other I read recently is SS-GB by Len Deighton, a mystery dealing with the murder of a nuclear physicist in German-occupied 1941 London.
Even more recently I read The Yiddish Policeman's Union by Michael Chabon, another alternate-history murder mystery, this one set in a world where a Jewish homeland was established in Alaska instead of Palestine. (Apparently this was under consideration in real life, and Chabon simply kills off the main opponent of the plan in a traffic accident.) Mysteries aren't the sort of thing I generally enjoy, but Chabon was able to keep my interest (better than Deighton).
Martin J. Gidron's The Severed Wing (which you mentioned earlier) is probably next on my list.
The Yiddish Policeman's Union surprised me. I enjoyed it very much, and this after buying, reading 120pp, loathing, and giving away The Adventures of Kavalier and Klay. Just couldn't abide that book. I got TYPU with a sort of half-grimace on my face, and haven't regretted it yet. I like the style, which has come under some heavy criticism from many reviewers. Perhaps my bubbe using Yiddish expressions all childhood made a larger impact on me than I knew. In any case I enjoyed the book.
I'll be very interested to hear what you think of The Severed Wing after you're done.
I finally got to The Severed Wing this week, and came away from it with somewhat mixed feelings. I'm rather taken by Gidron's overarching idea, and think it's a promising concept for putting human faces on the enormity of the Holocaust.
But I was not too happy with much of the text itself, a lot of which felt like Janusz, the protagonist, wandering around aimlessly so that Gidron could infodump his counterfactual speculations. The alternate universe Gidron conceives appears plausible enough, though it sometimes seems all he does is build it up so that it can all fall apart as Janusz slips further away from his reality. There's not much of a narrative framework on which to hang all the worldbuilding.
Also, there were far too many cameos from real-life figures for my taste, running from Bill Gates to Anne Frank to Paul Simon to Yitzhak Shamir -- to say nothing of the "Marshals' Plan" that kept Czarist Russia from falling to Communism. Having a few jokes of that sort is fine, but I felt Gidron really overdid it.
The last quarter (or so) of the book left me more impressed than I had been up to that point.
Were you aware that there is a group read of Farthing taking place in the Group Reads - Sci Fi forum at this time? Care to join in?
My full review is in my "75 Books Challenge" thread in message 2 for anyone who's interested in more details.
Pastwatch: The Redemption of Christopher Columbus by O.S. Card.
It's another good one, although not so much alt history as time travel. I include it, though, because it's not so much about the time travelling as it is about the alternate timeline that the Interveners created. Plus, it doesn't hurt that it's a compelling read. I mean, when would you go, if you could go back and correct one wrong in the past.
For anyone interested, there's a non-fiction book, titled What If?, a collection of essays from historians and writers in various fields, each detailing a scenario where, for the want of a nail . . .
Flint and Weber's 163X series are okay, but I much prefer their Grantville Gazette series. It's a lot more interesting, with a dedicated community contributing to the world.
The Years of Rice and Salt has been on my shelf for years, unread, thanks to this thread, I am going to give it a try. I will also be checking out the Elizabeth Bear and The Severed Wing. I like S.M Stirling's alternative histories within reason - especially The Peshawar Lancers. I liked the Nantucket trilogy, but find that the Universe of the Change has left its PA and alternate history roots to go full on fantasy adventure. I liked that Stirling lets us see the two alterate histories develop in the linked novels of The Change and Nantucket - usually alternate histories throw you in the middle rather than back to the beginning - so I found this an interesting approach. Guns in the Bronze Age!
As a Buddhist Japanese aid worker is deployed into war-torn Antilia, up the mighty Acuamagna, she confronts bitter sectarian warfare between the savage Christians and the Muslim Caliphate of Andalusia. The nuclear bomb that finished destroying Espirito Santo, previously hit by a typhoon of unprecedented scale, seriously impedes her search for a lasting peace among the barbaric religious wars flaring all over Antilia.
Antilia = America; Acuamagna = Mississippi; Espirito Santo = New Orleans. One turn to the left instead of the right, in this case an exodus of Christian bishops from Oporto, Portugal, into the unknown instead of up into France, and the horrific Congolese wars happen on the banks of the Mississippi.
Good stuff! I'd recommend trying it out. http://www.store.pspublishing.co.uk/acatalog/current_catalog.html/ will take you there. A worthwhile investment.
Something similar is, I think done much better by Charlie Stross in his Merchant Princes books. The series started in what appeared to be a classic fantasy scenario as ex-journalist Miriam Beckstein found she had the ability to 'world walk' - jump realities between North America as we know it and one in which crime families, the Clan, operate in a feudal society, and use their limited ability to 'world walk' to extend their crime operations into the USA. Clan families fight among themselves and with a 'lost Clan' branch, living in a third alternate reality of North America. Things got more complicated when Miriam found a fourth reality, in which revolution was brewing in an early industrial Georgian monarchy, left isolated by French control of Europe. Now the American government is closing in on the Clan, as it has discovered that they have stolen some back-back nukes and is researching 'world walking' in order to mount an invasion, seeing the Clan's alternate reality as an easy source of oil. The USA portrayed here is similar to, but not the same as, the one in our reality.
Fantastic alternative history books IMHO are Boneshaker, Clementine, and Dreadnought all by Cherie Priest who has to have one of the most fertile imaginations ever.
The Yiddish Policemen's Union, Plot Against America, Fatherland are all ones I've really enjoyed. I was a bit meh on Farthing and Ha'penny (though liked the latter more than the former).
I love and have to add L E Modesitt Jnr's Ghost Series is Modern World where various things have changed (and added Ghosts) but I know some people have found this series painful (we need to know what the main character eats for breakfast every day?).
And I would have also rave about John Birminghan's World War 2.1 Series
There were many 'German invasion' and 'WWI predection' books that followed. I can't recall the names, but I found (on Guttenburg) books written by Germans immediately before the Great War that predicted the coming conflict. Fascinating.
Lets not forget the worst, too - Stars and Stripes Forever by Harry Harrison which struck me as a racist tract that made Bravehart look like reasoned debate. Unreasoning hatred of a specific people is still unreasoning hatred.
Not that I expect you to respond.
There are 'forums' on LT for self published authors,
it is just that I'm too lazy to find you a link.
As you were too lazy to look for yourself.
"How Few Remain" remains my favourite Turtle dove.