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Customer reviews

4.0 out of 5 stars
Sideways in Crime
Format: Paperback|Change
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on 25 May 2010
This is a decent collection of alternate history short stories. The thing that binds these, in particular is that they are crime stories.

It's not the best anthology that I've ever read, nor is it the worst. There are a couple of stories in this that I, personally, really didn't enjoy. However, I've marked down all the authors and their stories and a brief bit on what they are about, so while I may not have enjoyed a story, if you're a fan, you may well find that you do. Of course that could work in reverse!

Running the Snake - Kage Baker. An entertaining little story - Britain in Elizabethan times is ruled by Druids, Will Shakspur (in this reality a conman) is called on by the Queen to investigate the murder of her son-in-law.

Via Vortex - John Meaney. I wasn't quite so keen on this one, personally, though it is quite clever (and the world that Meaney constructs is *extremely* believable). A German aligned "Amerika" sees the rise of the Nazis at the same time as in Germany and the upshot is that Einstein fled to France (and come to think of it, in a similar way to the premise of Paul MacAuley's excellent Cowboy Angels (Gollancz S.F.) though in that it was Alan Turing going to America instead of suffering persecution in the UK and helps develop "Turing Gates" which access alternate realities) his meeting with de Broigle while there takes science in a different direction. The story in this is concerned with the moral implications of a form of travel that this creates. It is genuinely thought-provoking, though I wasn't convinced by the set-up.

Fate and the Fire-lance - Stephen Baxter. I quite like Stephen Baxter, and he's done some enjoyable enough alternate history stuff (the Time's Tapestry novels including Conqueror). So, I'll say that I quite enjoyed this story, set in a Roman Empire still going strong on the eve of war, in 1914. It makes a lot of parallels with what actually happened in WWI, and this is the weakness of the story. Stephen Baxter is well known for writing (very good) hard SF. The only problem is that, as I'm sure readers of Baxter and hard-SF in general, will be aware of: there's a lot of info-dumping. Just about forgivable in a novel, less so in a short story. So; I liked it as a fan...be wary of it though, if you aren't (though you may enjoy all the nods to real-life history).

The Blood of Peter Francisco - Paul Park. This wasn't too effective - though I have since learned that there was a lot of obscure American history behind it. Perhaps with that knowledge it may have been better. The more familiar parts of the setting are and America where the revolution in the 1770s failed as did a second attempt in the 1860s which left America in the British Empire. The murder mystery part of it wasn't so interesting either - though I'm given to understand (and am sure I've read some good Paul Park short stories too) that Park *is* a good writer.

The Adventure of the Southsea Trunk - Jack McDevitt. Decent enough Holmesian story. The adventure and resolution, though guessable, were quite fun.

G-Men - Kristine Kathryn Rusch. It's a story about a murder, but is *anticipating* the alternate history that will arise from the murders that take place in the story. Quite an interesting way of looking on the task, I think. In this case it's the murder of people in the FBI (high profile, naturally).

Sacrifice - Mary Rosenblum. Quite an interesting alternate history whereby the Aztecs weren't destroyed by Europeans, leading to a different history (they end up stable and powerful, wiuth a more equal partnership with the likes of the Chinese Empire). The alternate history and the crime story itself are all quite effective, though the Aztecs are portrayed as being unable to solve the crime themselves?

Murder in Geektopia - Paul Di Filippo. Now, I like Di Fillipo - when these things come up, he's always interesting (his take on Steampunk is excellent, for example: The Steampunk Trilogy). This is a humerous little story, where, quite literally, the geeks inherited the Earth. Probably not *quite* to everyones taste. However I like Di Fillipo and the humour in this appealed.

Chicago - Jon Courtenay Grimwood. An Al Capone story. Not really so great, which is a shame, as his Arabesk (Arabesk Trilogy) is excellent. Grimwood is a good writer, though, so this isn't a total washout.

The Sultan's Emissary - Theodore Judson. Interesting concept (most of Europe Islamic, a decent grasp of real history) but the writing isn't very good at all. For that *sort* of universe, you're much better off with Kim Stanley Robinson's The Years of Rice and Salt. The set up in this is that the plague kills of all of Christendom, and it's a far, far better (though I should point out that it's a novel and the focus isn't entirely on the Islamic world).

Worlds of Possibilities - Pat Cadigan. More a multiverse story than strictly alternate history. That said, Pat Cadigan is a good writer and this is a decent sstory, despite the rushed ending.

A Murder in Eddsford - S. M. Stirling. Implausible change in physical laws send the world back to a slower, pre-industrial, time leading to a country policeman type story. OK, but I'm not totally convinced by Stirling (though I think if you enjoy his stuff, you'll like this). It's probably unfair to complain about the unlikely physics, but that may be because I didn't really like the story).

Conspiracies: A Very Condensed 937-Page Novel - Mike Resnick & Eric Flint. Humourous, if you like a parade of "funny" alien names. I don't particularly and didn't enjoy this story. Not overly familiar with Eric Flint, and have no desire to become so, though I've read better short stories by Mike Resnick before. If you're a big fan and can forgive the puerile humor, you may enjoy this story about the abduction of Jimmy Hoffa.

The People's Machine - Tobias S. Buckell. Ach, it's OK. Some nods to Sherlock Holmes and the like. Though there is a glaring error (which I have to confess to looking out for as it was pointed out in a review I read before), where the author forgets that a characters hands were 'cuffed, not bound!

Death on the Crosstime Express - Chris Roberson. Didn't enjoy that much, was OK and tried to make some points about race, but didn't do it very well at all; also there are a LOT of infodumps (which as noted by the Baxter story is a bit of a sin in short fiction...although I am probably applying dual standards here, as I think Baxter is just a better writer). It's as if it attempts to be worthy in this regard, but fails; which is a shame.

There are a couple of excellent stories in this (personal favourite Paul Di Fillippo's) but they just lift the collection a little. As I say, it's not a total washout - I appreciate that you may enjoy a couple of the stories more than I did and I've tried to indicate that. So don't get me wrong, I did enjoy reading *most* of this. I'm just not that sure I'll go back to that many of the stories.

I'm sure most will find something to enjoy here, but be warned that it's not all entirely successful.
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on 3 September 2008
I bought this book solely because of the S M Stirling stories included in this collection and they were great.

I found it a very interesting read, with a lot of very original and thought-provoking ideas and themes. I was surprised how quickly I got in to many of them and wishing they werent short!

Read and enjoy!
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