76 of 78 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars It's pretty comprehensive (and so hard to fault!)
This is indeed a pretty mammoth collection of alternate histories. 20 stories, (3 of which are new to the collection), all of which are alternate histories. This is done in different ways - some are far into the future long after some diversion from our established history takes place, and some take place around what the author imagines to be a crux in history...
Published on 26 Jun 2010 by R. Palmer
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Dense anthology
Took me a long while to read this - more because I was dipping in and out rather than reading it as one solid book. The quality of writing was good throughout although (although not a professed christian) the choice of alternate turning points and eventual resultant history was depressingly anti - christian at times. There are questions one could ask about the course of...
Published 23 months ago by Amanda Hall
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76 of 78 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars It's pretty comprehensive (and so hard to fault!),
This review is from: The Mammoth Book of Alternate Histories (Mammoth Books) (Paperback)This is indeed a pretty mammoth collection of alternate histories. 20 stories, (3 of which are new to the collection), all of which are alternate histories. This is done in different ways - some are far into the future long after some diversion from our established history takes place, and some take place around what the author imagines to be a crux in history.
The quality is pretty high throughout (take a look at the list of authors to see that) and there was little in here that I personally disliked (though, of course you may not like as much as I did). In fact, even authors that I've never really fancied the idea of (Harry Turtledove, for one) have some enjoyable stories in this.
Given the number of stories, it's hard to provide comprehensive reviews of each (also, probably best to avoid spoilers!) suffice to say at the price, you can't really fault this. It's not perfect by any means, but there was little that I really hated, so give it a go!
James Morrow - THE RAFT OF THE TITANIC [New to the collection]: Everyone is evacuated from the Titanic in an audacious rescue attempt, but no-one is discovered. Set against the backdrop of what happened over the next few years. Good fun.
Ken MacLeod - SIDEWINDERS [New to the Collection]: Alternate history and the multiverse - features a chap that is able to jump between differing histories. Excellent stuff.
Eugene Byrne & Kim Newman - THE WANDERING CHRISTIAN: Christianity never quite gets the hold that it did. Basically a history of what happened over the preceding hundreds of years.
Suzette Hayden Elgin - HUSH MY MOUTH: Short story showing a different outcome from the American Civil war (and that doesn't mean a conventional "the south won" story). Good stuff.
Harry Harrison & Tom Shippey - A LETTER FROM THE POPE: Set around a crux point (explains it at the start too, handily) the idea here being that the Viking assaults on England in the 9th Century were never adequately repulsed, which would lead to the whole of England being subject to Viking rule.
Esther Friesner - SUCH A DEAL: The exploration of the new world doesn't go quite as we know it. In this version of history Columbus gets his backing from elsewhere. In this, we see Aztecs bought to Europe. Not my favourite, by any means, but a fun story.
A A Attanasio - INK FROM THE NEW MOON: This was interesting - written in a style which doesn't seek to make things easy for the reader. You have to work (a little) harder to work out the divergence here. Things we are familiar with are discussed in language and terms, which though not completely alien to us, are different enough to jar.
Pat Cadigan - DISPATCHES FROM THE REVOLUTION: What if Bob Dylan didn't come? This looks at what happens if the 1960s had turned out just a little differently through a series of journal entries and correspondence.
Fritz Leiber - CATCH THAT ZEPPELIN: In this, the German army is comprehensively defeated in the first world war. This leads to a better peace than the one we got - and some greater prosperity. Not least because Germany then is able to direct its energies in a far more productive way. It does sort of try to hide one of the reveals, but it's guessable... pretty good, though (if not my favourite here).
Paul McAuley - A VERY BRITISH HISTORY: The space race is accelerated and turns out a little differently! Good stuff.
Rudy Rucker - THE IMITATION GAME: About the persecution of Alan Turing (which really, of course, did happen) with some subtle twists. I enjoyed this one, I have to say.
Keith Roberts - WEINACHTSABEND: A "what if Germany won the war" story. Pretty decent this one.
Kim Stanley Robinson - THE LUCKY STRIKE: The Enola Gay crashes in an accident a few days before the bomb is due to be dropped on Japan. A different crew takes part, with future consequences. Considered a genre classic.
Marc Laidlaw - HIS POWDER'D WIG, THIS CROWN OF THORNES: The American Revolution fails, leading to a different now. Enjoyable.
Judith Tarr - RONCESVALLES: This one looks at a tipping point, where some small betrayals lead to different decisions concerning religion.
Ian R MacLeod - THE ENGLISH MUTINY: The Indian Empire becomes dominant and Britain is part of its empire. Looks to mirror some of the events that happened in our own imperial past.
Chris Roberson - O ONE: In an eastern empire, a man from the west is trying to sell his idea for a computational machine to the emperor. This puts him in competition with the chief computer, as mathematics on a large scale is labour-intensive and he wishes to protect his position. Pretty good, which surprised me as I haven't loved anything by Roberson that I've read until now.
Harry Turtledove - ISLANDS IN THE SEA: At another crux point. Telerikh, leader of the Bulgars, is choosing Islam or Christianity. Again, never really wanted to read any Turtledove, but quite enjoyed this one. It's obvious, though, what the choice will be!
George Zebrowski - LENIN IN ODESSA: Centred around Lenin, Stalin and Sidney O'Reilly (spy, on whom James Bond is supposedly based). Can't say too much without revealing what happens.
Pierre Gévart - THE EINSTEIN GUN: First translation from the French. The assassination of Emperor Franz Ferdinand fails, so the world isn't plunged into the first and second world wars. Some nice ironies with dates in this one.
Robert Silverberg - TALES FROM THE VENIA WOODS: The Roman Empire hangs on and prospers. An older man telling a story from his childhood about a n old man they met in the woods.
Gregory Benford - MANASSAS AGAIN: Hmmm...didn't really enjoy this one I have to day (and normally I quite like Benford). Has mechs in it though.
Pamela Sargent - THE SLEEPING SERPENT: Colonisation of the new world happens differently. Pretty good this one.
Frederik Pohl - WAITING FOR THE OLYMPIANS: Has a meta element to it (it's set around a man that writes "sci-roms" who needs a new idea, someone suggests an alternate history to it). In this, ancient empires survive and first contact happens...
Stephen Baxter - DARWIN ANATHEMA [New to the collection]: In the past, England becomes Catholic again. Darwin's ideas don't take on (he flees to the protestatnt Scotland). 200 years later, the inquisition digs up his bones for a trial. I enjoyed this (though I really do like Baxter).
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Dense anthology,
This review is from: The Mammoth Book of Alternate Histories: Over 40 Fascinating Stories of Worlds That Might Have Been (Mammoth Books) (Kindle Edition)Took me a long while to read this - more because I was dipping in and out rather than reading it as one solid book. The quality of writing was good throughout although (although not a professed christian) the choice of alternate turning points and eventual resultant history was depressingly anti - christian at times. There are questions one could ask about the course of history - what if crusaders had kept hold of Jerusalem....
Good collection though and kept me entertained me months.
16 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Every kind of Alternate history you could want.,
This review is from: The Mammoth Book of Alternate Histories (Mammoth Books) (Paperback)This is the second "Mammoth" collection I've read, and they've made me much more positive about anthologies in general. This particular set of stories includes some impressive names and even more impressive tales. I enjoyed almost every story in here. One or two were a little bit off, but most hit the five star rating with space to spare, which is way above the majority of anthologies that I've come across.
Alternate History stories often tend to fall into the same broad strokes, and indeed you'll find several long lived Roman Empires, histories where different religions gain ascendancy in different parts of the world and of course a couple of visions of how Hitler could have elsewise spent his time.
I don't really want to do a synopsis for each story as some of them are difficult to introduce without being either so bland that several of them sound the same, or going into too much detail and giving away the entire story. That said, a few hightlights of this collection for me were;
A Very British History by Paul McAuley - A look back at a very different space race.
The Lucky Strike by Kim Stanley Robinson - The most thought provoking story, about a different plane being assigned the Hiroshima bombing run, and the comparrison to a firing squad at the end is particularly striking.
and Darwin Anathema by Stephen Baxter - In 2009 a much more powerful Catholic Church puts the bones of Charles Darwin on trial for heresy.
4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Mixed bag, overall rather disappointing,
This review is from: The Mammoth Book of Alternate Histories: Over 40 Fascinating Stories of Worlds That Might Have Been (Mammoth Books) (Kindle Edition)A mixed section of stories, but overall I found this disappointing. I think alternate history generally does not flourish within the short story format as it needs more room to breath and create its alternative version of history in a way that explains itself in sufficient detail to convince.
My favourite stories in this collection were the four below, three of which are by legends in the SF/alternate history fields. The rest were a mixed collection of tales, some reasonable, others dull and unengaging.
The Lucky Strike (Kim Stanley Robinson)
The pilot due to drop the atomic bomb on Japan dies in an air accident and his place is taken by another who has doubts about his mission and deliberately drops the bomb on uninhabited land away from Hiroshima. He is court marshalled and shot but the Japanese surrender due to the power of the demonstration and the post-War world is largely non-atomic. Powerful stuff though not sure it is too realistic in terms of the Japanese surrender.
Islands in the Sea (Harry Turtledove)
A fascinating exploration of the clash of religions. Constantinople has fallen to Islam in the 8th century of the Christian era instead of the 15th. The Khan of the Bulgars summons Islamic and Chistian thinkers to present to him the arguments for their respective religions and he will make his choice, affecting the future development of history. As this is alternate history, he chooses Islam and Christianity is restricted to western Europe, with the momentum in Islam's favour.
The Einstein Gun (Pierre Gevart)
The assassination of Franz Ferdinand fails and WWI never happens. As Emperor he appoints Hitler as Chancellor in 1934 and repression against the Jews begins and world war looms in 1945. A Jewish university lecturer, dismissed from his job, is friends with Einstein, in exile in socialist France. Einstein has invented a primitive time machine,which the ex-lecturer hopes touse to assassinate Franz Ferdinand in Sarajevoin 1914 and thereby prevent this repression and drive to war....
Tales from the Venia Woods (Robert Silverberg)
The Roman Empire lasted 2000 years and was then overthrown by the Second Republic. The last survivor of the imperial family is an old man hiding deep in the woods. This is one of a series of stories set in this alternate universe created by Robert Silverberg.
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Alternate Histories,
This review is from: The Mammoth Book of Alternate Histories (Mammoth Books) (Paperback)The Mammoth Book of Alternate Histories: Over 40 Fascinating Stories of Worlds That Might Have Been (Mammoth Books)
This book was well packed, and arrived in perfect condition. The reason why I only gave it 4 stars is explained in the following.
I bought this book because I have always been intrigued with the concept of "what would happen if you turned right instead of left" or "What if Hitler had died as an infant/child", and there was no world war two?
I must admit that I am very disappointed with the stories of "what if" as they are quite boring, they don't seem to have an end, just a beginning and a middle, but no ending, they just seem to stop, as if the writer meant to go back and finish them another day.
The first story, which is based on the sinking of the Titanic, used the alternate view that all but a few people survived the sinking. They ended up on a raft which held all the ones that got off. I read it, but it is so very far fetched, and when I got to the end of that story, it just stopped! It was such a shock, that I almost turned the book up and shook it, as if the ending was hiding. Well, I never said I was sane!!!
I did start reading the second story, but after five pages I just had to give up. The book is now in the charity box to go to the Red Cross, as I am sure that someone will buy it, as I did, to see what the Alternate Histories are.
2.0 out of 5 stars Mostly average or weak stories, of which many are full of anti-Christian and anti-white bigotry,
This review is from: The Mammoth Book of Alternate Histories (Mammoth Books) (Paperback)This collection contains one extremely good story and a handful of readable ones, but I found most of them weak. Also I must say that I was surprised how many of stories are deep fried in anti-Christian bigotry and sometimes also a virulent strain of anti-white RACISM. Some of them really shocked me. Below you will find some information about all the stories, with as little spoilers as possible:
THE RAFT OF THE TITANIC by James Morrow. The best story in the collection and an absolute treasure! Vaguely inspired by the famous painting "The raft of La Meduse" and enriched by citations from Coleridge's poem "The rime of ancient mariner", wickedly twisted and full of wit, this is a marvel, which could proudly figure in any collection of main stream literature short stories. I never read anything by James Morrow before, but after swallowing this story I am going to remedy to it very fast.
THE SIDEWINDERS by Ken MacLeod. A honest story about infinite parallel worlds, attempting to launch a debate between progress/intervention and conservatism/isolation and with some funny moments happening in a parallel UK, governed by a kind of super-leftist Labour Party. Good read but definitely not a master piece.
THE WANDERING CHRISTIAN by Eugene Byrne and Kim Newman. This story will be almost certainly incredibly offensive to any believing Christian, but will probably delight all Christian-haters. It is well written, I must give the authors that, but I was deeply offended by their these that Christianity triumphed in Europe only because of ONE "lucky break" and that if that did not happen, it would fatally decline and ultimately vanish, when in the same time ALL other religions would prosper and progress. I wonder if both authors would dare to write something like that about Islam...
HUSH MY MOUTH by Suzette Hayden Elgin. A rather interesting story about an alternate United States where all the whites were exterminated and only black population remains. Quite well written, but I just wonder if any editor would have nowadays the courage to print a story in which the contrary happens...
A LETTER FROM THE POPE by Harry Harrison and Tom Shippey. Another deeply anti-Christian story which occurs in Alfred the Great times. Again it is quite well written, but it places on the same level Nordic paganism and the Christianity and clearly hints that the first was more sympathetic - a claim that on a personal level I am absolutely not comfortable with.
SUCH A DEAL by Esther M. Friesner. That one happens in 1492, during the siege of Grenade, it is seen from the perspective of local Jews and author tries to be humoristic - but once again Christians (in this case Spanish kings) play the role of super villains. I must admit that I was deeply shocked by the sheer joy with which author described the massacre of Christians - and I would certainly be as shocked if anybody wrote about a massacre of Jews with the same level of pleasure and satisfaction...
INK FROM THE NEW MOON by A.A. Attanasio. A rather interesting alternate history in alternate America in XV century, but once again damaged by an incredible display of anti-white racism. The first contact of the hero with European explorers is the occasion to shoot a salvo of ethnic hatred and contempt of a magnitude which I believed was no more used in letters since the end of III Reich!
DISPATCHES FROM THE REVOLUTION by Pat Cadigan. That one is VERY interesting and very well written and I liked it a lot even if its general line is really not favourable to my politics. A story seriously left wing oriented but so brilliant that even a conservative like me enjoyed it. Absolutely no spoilers here.
CATCH THAT ZEPPELIN by Fritz Leiber. The oldest story in this collection, it is centered around an alternate Germany in the 30s and is told by a major player in world history, but who in this reality has a life very different and humbler but ultimately much more satisfying than in the real history.
A VERY BRITISH HISTORY by Paul McAuley. An alternate history of space race from 1950s to 1990s, as seen from British perspective - a good idea in the beginning, but it quickly crashes. Sadly it is one of the weakest stories in the book.
THE IMITATION GAME by Rudy Rucker. The least interesting in the whole book, it is basically a story about two homosexual lovers living in a strongly homophobic society. It is however mercifully short.
WEINACHTSABEND by Keith Roberts. This story about a world in which III Reich won the WWII is very famous amongst SF fans and I was expecting a lot from it - but I found it surprisingly disappointing and even by moments ridiculous. Now I am certain that in 1972, when it was first published, it could be a shocker - but since then there were so many "III Reich victorious" stories that the subject lost much of its "fire power". And the story itself is simply weak, with actions of the protagonists not making much sense. But, if you do not know it yet, read it and make up your own mind.
THE LUCKY STRIKE by Kim Stanley Robinson. The story is linked to the first nuclear attack against Japan. It is very well written and a good read, no argument there. But it is also - in my modest opinion - the MOST BIASED, the most STUPID and the least satisfying in the whole anthology. Author looks at the situation in July 1945 in Pacific with the eyes of a far left peacenik from the 70s and as a result the whole story horribly and (in my modest opinion) unfairly insults a great American soldier, Brigadier General Paul Warfield Tibbets Jr. (1915-2007) and a great American president, Harry S. Truman (1884-1972). The last two pages are so incredibly stupid and naive that I laughed out loud. I will not reveal more, but if after reading this short story you feel like agreeing with the author, I propose you to watch a great Japanese movie "Japan's longest day" (1967) and/or read the extraordinary book "Hell to pay: Operation Downfall and the invasion of Japan 1945-47" by D.M. Giangreco. They are I believe a sufficient rebuttal to Kim Stanley Robinson's views.
HIS POWDER'D WIG, HIS CROWN OF THORNS by Marc Laidlaw. A rather dull and a little weird story about an alternate America after the British victory against rebelled colonists in Independence War. For reasons unexplained, this version of America is devoid of any white population and populated only by Indians and African-Americans...
RONCESVALLES by Judith Tarr. That one is, in my personal opinion, the most offensive in the whole book. It occurs in times of Charlemagne, but this time Roland and Oliver are homosexual lovers, Charlemagne and his knights are all pagans and only Ganelon the traitor is a Christian, plotting with Byzantines. And ALL Christians appearing in this story are smelly dirty wicked traitors and murderers trying to turn pagan Charlemagne against evolved and peace loving Muslims... No more comment needed.
THE ENGLISH MUTINY by Ian R. MacLeod. Now that is a very good and very interesting story about England as part of the Great Mughul Empire and the great rebellion of native population and especially native soldiers against Indian sahibs. It could be a masterpiece, if there was not a totally idiotic and useless twist in the last two pages.
O ONE by Chris Roberson. In a world dominated by the Chinese Empire a savant from European Provinces tries to obtain an audience with the Emperor to demonstrate an important invention. That is a very clever story about the complex and merciless mechanisms of the great imperial courts in the whole human history and this particularity of China which made it occasionally go backwards in technology and development without any invasion or civilisation collapse...
ISLANDS IN THE SEA by Harry Turtledove. The great master of alternate history can do no wrong, so this is another very good story. In the first paragraph we learn the time and place of action - 769AD, just after the fall of Byzantium to the conquering Arabs, in the Balkans, among the still pagan Bulgars (today we would say Bulgarians)... Nothing more will be said on the plot. Very well written, very erudite (Mr Turtledove is a recognized expert on Byzantine history) but the idea of the great Greek city falling to the Muslims already in VIII century makes it a heartbreaking reading to any Christian...
LENIN IN ODESSA by George Zebrowski. A story about first years of Soviet regime in Russia featuring Lenin, Stalin and a famous British secret agent Sidney Reilly (in real world executed in Soviet Union in 1925). I must say that I did not like it, as it showed all the three protagonists as complete caricatures of real people.
THE EINSTEIN GUN by Pierre Gévart. Third best story in the collection, it may seem a little dull in the beginning and even in the middle and even towards the end - but please READ IT TO THE END and you will be greatly rewarded! Not even a shadow of spoiler here - it is too good for that!
TALES FROM THE VENIA WOODS by Robert Silverberg. The basic idea about the survival of Roman Empire and its conquest of the world was interesting, but I found this story surprisingly boring, especially coming from such a giant of SF.
MANASSAS AGAIN by Gregory Benford. There is some alternate history in the distant background but this is mostly a story about a war of humans against robots. A rather dull read - if you skip it you will not loose anything.
THE SLEEPING SERPENT by Pamela Sargent. Another story about extermination of white population of America and once again it is described with such an enthusiasm that I was sick when reading it. I especially appreciated the scene with little white children being taken in slavery once their parents were exterminated and the comment of the main character "soon there will forget and have a better life with new families..."
WAITING FOR THE OLYMPIANS by Frederik Pohl. Second best in the whole collection, which comes as no surprise, considering the author. It is really well written and also, after so many anti-Christian stories in this book, that one put at least some balm on my heart. This story of the First Contact made with aliens in a world in which Roman Empire survived but Christianity never occurred is really clever - and the final punch line is a very powerful one.
DARWIN ANATHEMA by Stephen Baxter. That one explores one of the most famous "what ifs" in the whole SF: what if the Invincible Armada succeeded in 1588? Although critical towards Catholic Church, this story is however quite moderate (especially if compared to the openly heinous "Roncevalles") and has some surprising twists. Although I do not agree with the thesis that Catholic victory in England in 1588 would have catastrophic consequences (after all the first declaration of human rights in Europe took place in Catholic France in 1789), I liked this story - and especially I liked one of the Inquisitors..)))
CONCLUSION: I did not like most of the stories and I think that this collection is rather a failed one. But to be honest I must also admit, that being a Christian and a white I may be biased because of the insulting picturing of people who believe and look like me in many of those stories. So you are of course welcome to give it a try and to find if and how much my impressions were wrong (or maybe right).
2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Enjoyable set of stories,
This review is from: The Mammoth Book of Alternate Histories: Over 40 Fascinating Stories of Worlds That Might Have Been (Mammoth Books) (Kindle Edition)Like all sets of short stories I enjoyed some more than others. No doubt some of my favourites would be others' dislikes. But that's the great thing about short stories - you get more than one idea within the pages of a single book. Overall though I thoroughly enjoyed it. My favourite has to be an alternative to the Titanic disaster where the crew and passengers make a huge raft before the ship sinks. There's more to the story but I wont spoil it.
I got this during a sale so only paid 0.99p so am more than happy with the value for money. If I had to pay the standard GBP5.49 I probably wouldn't have taken the risk in the first place but having read them I would recommend the book at this price. I've given it 4 stars instead of 5 because, as to be expected, there were some stories not on my wavelength.
2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Stories of 'what ifs' and 'might have beens',
3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An excellent anthology,
This review is from: The Mammoth Book of Alternate Histories (Mammoth Books) (Paperback)Although some of the stories have been already published in other books (and have achieved the "classic" status, like "Catch that zeppelin", by Fritz Leiber), the new contributions are very good, as is the case of the hillarious (and thoughtful) James Morrow's "The raft of the Titanic".
In short, an excellent anthology.
3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not really worth the money.,
As another reviewer has already said, there was much too much inclusion of "explanations" for the alternatives - instead of just living in a "different" reality, too many characters throughout this selection said things like "How different our lives would have been if the shot fired at Archduke Ferdinand in 1914 had HIT him. Imagine the repercussions . . ". It ruined many of the stories for me.
I quite see that this was the trigger on which the story was based - but how about letting the reader work it out rather than have the author brag about how BRIGHT they are?
I'm prepared to give an extra star because there were a couple of good ones, but I didn't enjoy the vast majority.
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The Mammoth Book of Alternate Histories (Mammoth Books) by Ian Watson (Paperback - 25 Feb 2010)