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on 26 June 2010
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).
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on 3 May 2010
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.
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on 12 February 2014
They're mainly American, they're odd and don't really relate to anything. Most of them aren't "alternate histories" - more simply science fiction versions of events and places. Some are simply unreadable. You get halfway into a story, they are all short stories, and the narrative has been jumping about so much you lose the thread and have to go back to the beginning.
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on 19 April 2014
Many years ago I read a book of altnerate history stories which I quite enjoyed (but the title of which I have long forgotten!) and when I saw this one offered, I thought I would give it a go.

It kind of does what it says on the tin BUT I found a similarity with the other book which I suspect is a reflection of the times that both sets of stories were written in. The original book had a majority of stories about "what would have happened if the Nazis had won the war". This book had many variations on the theme of what would have happened if at various (different) turning points in history, the tide had turned in favour of Islam rather than Christianity.

Unlike some reviewers, I did NOT find this book (or indeed any of the stories) anti-Christian. The authors are simply posing the question to themselves of how things might have turned out differently had it been Islam and not Christianity which won out. The fact that there are quite a few stories in this book using this as a premise is, I suspect, more of a reflection of current affairs in the 21st century than any prejudice on behalf of the authors.

That said, the story I found most interesting was one which posed the question of how things might have turned out differently had Archduke Ferdinand and his wife not been assassinated in Sarajevo in 1914 thus precipitating the First World War. The twist (which I will not reveal) was satisfying and in the light of what we know happened in the Second World War, very moving.

All in all I did enjoy most of the stories in this collection but I have given 4 stars rather than 5 because of the preponderance of the Islam/Christian reversal themes. I feel the editors could have done more to ensure a more varied collection of themes.
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on 4 January 2012
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.
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VINE VOICEon 14 August 2011
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.
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on 3 June 2014
As the name suggests, this book had a mammoth amount of alternate histories which were each more different than the last. While I found some of the short stories incredibly engaging and interesting, some were nowhere near as good as others. Although the good outweighed the bad, I did find myself wishing that some of the histories would just end or, at one point, wondering how the story had anything to do with alternate history at all.
Would I recommend it? Yes I would, but I'd also advise a pinch of salt with some of the stories too.
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on 11 May 2012
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.
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on 6 February 2014
Good stories but sometimes it takes almost to the end of the story before you can work out what type of alternate history it is. This takes away some of the enjoyment of the story as you can't put everything into context.
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on 9 February 2014
This is a reasonable collection of 'alternate history' stories. I enjoyed some of them, but I think this book will appeal mainly to existing fans of science fiction who are interested in this type of SF story.
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