Sunday, June 22, 2008

Worlds That Weren't by Harry Turtledove, et al

First sentence:

"Simon the shoemaker's shop stood close to the southwestern corner of the Athenian agora, near the boundary stone marking the edge of the market square and across the narrow dirt lane from the Tholos, the round building where the executive committee of the Boule met."


"Alternate history is the branch of speculative fiction that explores what might have happened if history had taken a different turn. The obvious changes, like the Nazis winning World War II, have filled innumerable novels. Fortunately, the anthology Worlds That Weren't avoids the obvious with its four fine new novellas from four superior authors: Harry Turtledove, S.M. Stirling, Mary Gentle, and Walter Jon Williams.

The collection opens with "The Daimon," written by Harry Turtledove, AH's best-known practitioner. In Turtledove's turning point, the ancient Greek philosopher Socrates chooses to accompany General Alkibiades to war instead of remaining in Athens, and sets Alkibiades on a triumphant, terrible new course.

Set in the British India-dominated alternate history of The Peshawar Lancers, S.M. Stirling's novella is a rousing old-fashioned adventure. "Shikari in Galveston" follows a hunting safari through a regressed American frontier that might have given even Daniel Boone pause.

A prequel to her Book of Ash tetralogy, Mary Gentle's novella "The Logistics of Carthage" concerns Christian warriors serving pagan Turks in a North Africa conquered by Visigoths instead of Vandals, and is the strongest story in Worlds That Weren't.

The collection concludes with "The Last Ride of German Freddie," in which Nebula Award winner Walter Jon Williams considers what might have happened if the German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche had taken himself and his superman theories to the Wild West." -- from the back cover

My thoughts:

Instead of the typical alternate history of a different victor in a war, or a prevention of an assassination, these stories highlighted gradual and subtle changes in history. I especially liked the stories "Shikari in Galveston" featuring an alternate America still within the British Empire and "German Freddy Rides Again" featuring Nietzche at the OK Corral. Finally, I liked the afterwords to each story which explained how history really happened.

Date read: 6/6/2008
Book #: 33
Challenge: Short Story Reading Challenge
Rating: 3*/5 = good
Genre: SF

ISBN-10: 0451528980
ISBN-13: 9780451528988
Publisher: Roc Trade
Year: 2006
# of Pages: 292
Binding: Trade Paperback
LibraryThing Page

1 comment:

Ruth said...

This looks like a really interesting collection. I've just started exploring the alternate history genre after reading Conspirator's Odyssey: The Evolution of the Patron Saint by A.K. Kuykendall. It's so well written and utterly believable, it's hooked me on finding more authors to check out.