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Writer Harry Turtledove works mostly in the field of Alternate history, and has produced many novels in that genre. This is a collection of some of his short stories and novellas, the bulk of which are alternate history tales also.

Although the cover design makes it look as if it's part of his recent Atlantis series of novels, only two of the stories in this collection are actually set in that particular fictional universe.

All of the stories in here have also appeared elsewhere. Mostly in magazines but some in other anthologies.

All the stories have introductions from the writer that are short and to the point, and which explain how the story came to be.

Lead story 'Audubon in Atlantis' runs for sixty pages and see a famous naturalist visit Atlantis [for those not familiar with those novels, it's a world in which a large chunk of land broke off from America millions of years ago, and was discovered by europeans in the middle ages. The colonisation and subsequent history of the place parallels real American history] looking to paint a native species before they become extinct. The lead character does use the methods of the time in that he shoots and then paints the animals, and some may have issues with that. But it does go with the time period of the story. The whole thing is about a man who knows he won't be around forever looking for creatures who won't either. In a land where change marches on. As a piece about the fact that things don't last, it is quite moving at times.

'Bedfellows' runs for just ten pages and considers what would happen if the relationship between two real figures from this world was taken to a certain extreme. The central point is quite thought provoking and the story is just long enough not to outstay it's welcome.

'News from the Front' runs for thirty pages and is told in the form of newspaper reports, showing how World War Two would have gone for America if news media of the time had behaved the way they do today. It's a rather depressing read but it's a clever and thought provoking piece of writing.

'The Catcher in the Rhine' runs for twenty four pages and sees a man visiting Germany get caught up in the middle of something from mythology. It could be rather slight but it's not a bad character story in the end, although it's a little inconsequential.

'The Daimon' runs for just over sixty pages and sees the Peloponesian war go rather differently for Athens. This story may take a while to get into if you don't know the history behind it, but it does become rather involving anyhow, and does end up being a good strong read.

'Farmer's law' is a twenty page murder mystery set in the Byzantine Empire. It's a nice little character study but if you don't know the history behind the Farmer's law of the title, it may not grab you.

'Occupation Duty' is a twenty page story set in a certain area of the Middle east, where the problems the main character encounters are very familiar. But things about the setting are rather different. An interesting bit of alternate history with some good points to make.

'The Horse of Bronze' runs for fifty five pages and is a tale of ancient times, when a group of Centaurs on a journey meet all sorts of mythological creatures. Then they meet a new one. Who stands on two legs...It doesn't really grab till the halfway point and although the ending is quite affecting it's one of those things that will either grab you or not.

'The Genetics lecture' is just three pages long and a one joke story. But it's a good joke. If you get it.

'Someone is stealing the great thrones of the galaxy' is a thirteen page science fiction story written ina very strange style that is presumably a humorous homage to something. I have no idea what so it didn't appeal.

'Uncle Alf' runs for thirty five pages and is set in a world where the Central powers won the first World War. It's told in the form of letters from a German soldier sent to Occupied France on a mission. It's an interesting and clever bit of alternate history and very readable.

'The Scarlet Band' is a Sherlock Holmes pastiche set in the World of the Atlantis stories, as the great detective and his assistant come to Atlantis to work on a case. Using versions of established fictional characters in another setting doesn't jar at all, and as an Atlantis story it's quite good. So it's a good read.

And it's a pretty decent collection all in all.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 17 January 2013
If you are into alternative history but have not previously read the twelve short stories and novellas in this collection you will probably really enjoy at least some of them. However, you may find it wise to check before buying which of them you have already seen.

The stories in this anthology and where they previously appeared are

1) Aubudon in Atlantis, first published in Analog, Dec 2005
2) Bedfellows, first pub. Magazine of Fantasry & SF, June 2005
3) News from the Front, first pub. Asimov's SF magazine June 2007
4) The Catcher in the Rhine, first pub. "The Chick is in the Mail" ed. Esther Friesner
5) The Daimon, first published in Turtledove's previous anthology, "Worlds That Weren't"
6) Farmer's Law, first pub. "Crime Through Time: III" ed. Sharon Newman
7) Occupation Duty, first pub. "Time Twisters" ed Jean Rabe and Martin Greenberg
8) The Horse of Bronze, first pub. The First Heroes: New Tales of the Bronze Age Ed. Turtledove and Noreen Doyle
9) The Genetics Lecture, first pub. Analog, Oct 2005
10) Someone is stealing the great throne rooms of the Galaxy, first pub. "Space Cadets" ed. Mike Resnick
11) Uncle Alf, first pub "Alternate Generals II" ed. Turtledove, Roland Green and Martin Greenberg
12) The Scarlet Band, first pub. Analog, May 2006.

The stories in this collection range from the very short ("The Genetics Lecture" is a three page, one joke story) to novellas (the stories set in Turtledove's "Atlantis" alternative universe which bookend this collection are both about 70 pages.) They vary considerably in style and tone, from humorous pastiche to deadly serious, from the Bronze age to the far future, from things which could easily have happened to whimsical fantasies, one of which was classed as a "Probability zero" feature when it first appeared in Analog. A significant proportion of the stories in the book are detective stories of one kind or another, others are tales of war, exploration, or scientific discovery.

I'm not going to attempt to describe the subjects covered by all these stories in detail as that might easily give rise to spoilers, but these also vary greatly. One has a ship crewed by centaurs visiting Britain in the Bronze age, when the British isles were known as the Tin Islands and were so remote as to be seen as the stuff of legends in the then civilised world. In fact, I found this story piquant because in the Bronze age "the Tin Islands" were so little known that Herodotus in his The Histories (Oxford World's Classics)", actually queried the existence of the British Isles on the grounds that he had been unable to find an eye witness who could give a first hand account of them, on a page adjacent to a preposterous account of dangerous gold-digging giant ants, which he swallowed whole because he found several alleged eye-witnesses who claimed to have seen them!

Another story has sergeant Hitler searching for communist spies and French rebels while posted to German-occupied France in a world in which the Central Powers won the First World War. A story told mainly from the viewpoint of Socrates suggests how a different response by Alcibiades to the charges brought against him at the time of the Athenian expedition to Sicily could have changed the course of the Peleponessian war with increasingly dramatic results.

If Goliath of Gath, the philistine warrior, had won his single combat, which in our world was won by his opponent David, there would presumably be no Judaism, no Christianity, and no Islam. Do you think that would mean no wars in the middle east? Turtledove invites you to think again.

Perhaps the most thought-provoking story in the book illustrates the potentially disastrous consequences had the American media reported the Second World War in the way that certain media outlets operate now.

Overall this is a very good, wide-ranging of Harry Turtledove's alternative history works which will appeal to most fans of his work in this genre provided they have not already read too many of the stories included.
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