"President Gore and other things that never happened" is a collection of 19 essays each of which postulates one change to 19th or 20th century political history between 1831 and 2000, and looks at how a different sequence of events might have followed.
Counterfactual history is a rapidly growing market. Both "alternative history" fiction such as most of the novels of Harry Turtledove, and slightly more serious works of historical analysis of what might have happened, such as Cowley's "What If" or Niall Ferguson's "Virtual History" have been very popular.
Most works of counterfactual history have concentrated on what might have happened if wars had gone differently. "President Gore" and the previous volume, "Prime Minister Portillo and other things that never happened" are unusual in that they concentrate on political decisions or elections which might have gone differently.
Twelve of the essays in this book look at British political history, starting with what would have happened if the Great Reform Bill of 1831 had fallen instead of passing by one vote. The other seven look at world history, from the first world war - what if Gavrilo Princip had missed Archduke Franz Ferdinand - to the title essay on what might have happened if Al Gore had become U.S. President.
Anyone who buys this book for the title essay alone may be disappointed, especially if they are expecting it to concentrate on how Al Gore might have reached the White House. About one page of the essay is a retrospective of how the Democrats supposedly followed a more subtle and less obviously partisan strategy in respect of the Florida ballot in November 2000. Most of the essay is devoted to the subsequent battles in congress.
In particular, the main thrust of the narrative is how the Republicans might have totally blown the 2004 election by accusing President Gore of exaggerating the middle east terrorist threat a few days before the 9/11 "twin towers" attacks. In my view this is one of the weakest essays in the book, and one of several in which the contributor indulges in fantasies about what he or she would have liked to have happen rather than a true "what if" which objectively works through what would have been the most likely outcome of a given situation.
So buying this book for the title, especially if you are one of those who don't like George W Bush very much and want to read about how he might have been prevented from becoming President, may not be the best use of your money.
Having said that, if you would derive great pleasure from reading an essay which makes Al Gore sound like Roosevelt, Socrates and Nelson Mandela rolled into one, and has congressional Republican leader Tom Delay make a complete fool of himself, then you should indeed buy this book for the title story.
The contributors cover an eclectic range of views and backgrounds, but not as wide as "Prime Minister Portillo." Where the first book in the series had a very good mix of people from the right, left, and centre of the political spectrum, the UK contributors to "President Gore" are predominantly Liberal Democrats or historians specialising in that part of the spectrum. Perhaps in consequence, "President Gore" has a slight bias towards the centre - this may sound like a contradiction in terms but it is the case.
(NB - in Britain the word "liberal" usually means the exact opposite of what it often means in the USA. E.g. "Economic liberalism" means market-based, conservative economics, not socialist or planned economics. And a "Liberal Democrat" is a member of a political party which is usually regarded as being in the political centre, NOT someone on the left wing of the more left wing party.)
However, where "President Gore" is good, it is very good indeed, both for the quality of the analysis and the entertainment value.
In readability, this book scores over its predecessor in two respects: there is more and better humour, and that humour is less prone to "in jokes" and more accessible to most people with an above average interest in politics. I found one or two of the essays to be literally "laugh out loud" funny, and would have considered the book worth buying for the amusement given me by one particular essay alone. Despite its somewhat boring title, the essay "What if John Major had become Chief Whip in 1987" was both hysterically funny, and constructed a counterfactual history which the essay convincingly argued was often more plausible than the course of events we Brits actually lived through. There are some amusing hints about how the course of American history might have changed at the same time.
Since two thirds of the essays reflect counterfactual British histories, and most of the remaining third reflect possible variations on events in Europe, this book is most likely to appeal to readers with an interest in both British and European history. There are three essays covering other parts of the world, specifically the US, Israel, and China; e.g. the title essay, one about Sino-US relations ("What if Mao had met Roosevelt?") and one about Israel ("What if Yitzhak Rabin had not been assassinated in 1995?").
If you have an interest in counterfactual history, or in 19th and 20th century British and European political history, or both, you will probably greatly enjoy this book. If you don't have either of those specialist interests, leave it alone.