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on 20 July 2014
Until recently alternative history was an alien concept to me. Like most people, I had often pondered how life would have been had the Germans won the war, or if the Americans had discovered life on the Moon. However, the fact that there was a whole genre dedicated to this art form had escaped me entirely.

Through technological advancement the fan base of alternative history is ever expanding and one such gentleman helping to achieve this is Mark Lord. Through his website and collections of short works of fiction he is helping to bring alternative history into the public domain.

Alt Hist Issue 5 is the latest instalment in his growing collection and, I'm embarrassed to say, the first I have read. The collection opens with an editorial by Mark Lord. Following a brief apology for the timeframe between issues, he jumps right in by introducing the guest authors and the treats on offer. Each author is introduced with a very brief bio of their work (a lengthened one concludes their contribution) and a brief over view of what's on offer. The friendly narrative immediately makes you feel the work is produced by a much larger family and one that should you wish, are more than welcome to join and enjoy the journey.

The collection consists of 5 stories, the first of which being `After Mary', by Priya Sharma. Set during the 1800's, After Mary is centred on a reclusive scientist, his assistant and his servant. What appears a love story is turned on its head following a visit from his old University friend and the mention/introduction of the novel `Mary Shelly's Frankenstein'. Written in the 1st person, `After Mary' is a great example of suggestive prose as its complex narrative drops the hints without ever fully exploiting them. I'll leave the reader to draw their own conclusions.

The second story, `AD 1929', by Douglas W. Texter, tells the story of what would happen if idealism, or in this case futurism, were to combine with the driving force and sheer will of Al Capone and his criminal underworld. Written with a touch of `The Untouchables' and the political malice of `The Ides of March', AD 1929 is an insight into political machinations and how easily the wrong choices can propel us forward.

The third choice on offer is `The Stiff Heart', by Meredith Miller. Set during The American Civil War, this is a story of choice, fears and one person's contemplations of suicide. Beautifully written, I do feel this story is a required taste and one with which I couldn't fully engage.

The penultimate, and by far my favourite of the collection, is `The Bridge', by Micah Hyatt. Told in four sections, covering just over a decade in time, the narrative follows the construction of a suspension bridge and the cost to the men building it. However, as the story unfolds, you notice a dark undertone running in tandem with the narrative, building to a climax I never saw coming. This story was a real joy to read and will play on my mind for many sleepless nights to come.

The final contribution is `Battalion 202: Rotten Parchment Bonds', by Jonathan Doering. Based in the Northern town of Pontefract, `Battalion 202', deals with the successful invasion of Britain by Nazi Germany. The narrative follows the tale of Harold Storey, a policeman left to defend the town as his comrade's move to the front line to fight, and how he deals with the eventual occupation. Even though this works well as a standalone story, I was more than happy to find out that it was part of an ongoing saga, told from different character viewpoints, the first of which is in an earlier edition of Alt Hist.

To conclude, I believe this is a quality collection of fiction that is both intriguing and entertaining for the reader. The collection of stories on offer cover a variety of genres, are written in a variety of styles and, as such, there should be something for everybody to enjoy.
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on 4 August 2013
mention this because it seems no matter of course when it comes to digital publishing. Also the formatting worked well on my reader.

Before I go into detail I would like to talk about the cover image. Mark Lord mentioned the name of the painting and the name of the artist. The Misses Vickers has been painted by the famous portrait painter John Singer Sargent (January 12, 1856 - April 14, 1925). I'm no adept which means I can't deliver an in depth review of the painting.

Editorial by Mark Lord

Mark explain the one year gap between Alt Hist Issue 4 and Alt Hist Issue 5 followed by additional information about the authors of the stories and the stories itself. The variety is shown in the historical periods covered by the stories from the 180s to the Second World War.
Anyway you get enough input to raise your nosiness.

It is always a balancing act not to give away too much of a short story. I decided to give you a short information of the content of each story based on the information you get in the editorial.

The first story of Alt Hist Issue 5 is After Mary by Prya Sharma which is set in the mid-1800s. A young scientist, misunderstood by the rest of the world, tries to realise his dreams in the reclusion of his country home supported by servant Myles and his assistant Myles. A copy of Mary Shelley's Frankenstein changes everything.

My thoughts
To give someone a specific book is like throwing a stone into a lake and see what happens. Prya Sharma let you understand very well how and why the persons in her story act like they act.

AD 1929 by Douglas Texter is the second story within Alt Hist Issue 5. The author let us know what happens when science and criminal energy meets. In 1929 the Italian Futurist F.T. Marinetti offers his knowledge to Al Capone.

My thoughts
It is beautiful horrific to see what happens when science meet criminal energy and then use the laws and rules of country to manipulate the inhabitants. Not to forget the reaction of the administration and secret agencies. The more you read the more uneasy you feel.

The third story has been delivered by Meredith Miller.
The Stiff Heart is set in New England in the 1870s it gives an insight of fears, secrets and desires of some people in a post Civil War community.

My thoughts
While reading I felt a kind of trepidation. It must be traumatic when you can't cope with a situation and nobody seems to understand you or denies to understand you.

With The Bridge by Micah Hyatt we reach the last but one story of Alt Hist Issue 5. This is a story about engineering and the risk of life AND soul.

My thoughts
If you like the TV series The X Factor then you will like The Bridge too. The story is well executed and you may see bridges or other buildings from a different angle.

The final story of Alt Hist Issue 5 is Battalion 202: Rotten Parchment Bonds by Jonathan Doering
World War 2. Germany invade Britain. As the previous ones this Battalion 202 story is set in the town of Pontefract

My thoughts
I have had the pleasure to read two Battalion 202 stories in Alt Hist Issue 4 which is a slight advantage as I knew a bit more. The story is like a magnifying glass which show how single individuals who know each other well, cope with an unpromising situation where every decision has an impact on the lives of all inhabitants. Jonathan does a great job with the description of motives and emotion.

And what do I think about Alt Hist Issue 5?

I think it was worth to wait for this issue. Mark Lord put together a well mix of stories which show the variety of alternate history.
You get exactly what has been promised. It is a great opportunity to discover not so well known but promising alternate history authors.

If this is something after your taste then let me tell you that the previous four issues of Alt Hist are still available.
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on 26 August 2013
This issue of Alt Hist is beautifully presented, as was the previous one, but there is a noticeable jump in the overall quality of the content this time around. The standout stories for me were Priya Sharma's 'After Mary' and Meredith Miller's 'The Stiff Heart', but the volume as a whole was a satisfying and consistent read. Jonathan Doering's story also deserves a mention for its inventiveness in terms of form.
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on 2 October 2016
as described thank you
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